Monday, September 21, 2009

Peer Review - Increasing quality and decreasing grading time

Have you ever looked at a stack of student work and thought, "I wish I didn't have to grade this pile of garbage!" Well, the answer is simple. Don't.

Instead, get students to review one another's work before submitting it. This is quite common in writing classes, but why can't it also be used in science classes where students are writing research papers, in humanities classes where they are writing essays, in fine arts classes where they are creating and designing? Any time students are being asked to submit work that you hope they have taken the time to proofread or revise in some way, you can take advantage of peer review.

All you need to do is create an earlier deadline, and offer points for submitting work early and reviewing other students' work. I suggest giving students your grading rubric ahead of time so that they can (a) use it to guide their own work, and (b) use it to review the work of their peers. You can use class time to do peer reviews, or you can set up groups on your course website for students to review written work. You don't have to grade the submission or feedback beyond the fact that it has been completed, but I find giving guidelines on how to leave effective feedback and possibly grading feedback with a simple scale (like credit/no credit or check, check-minus, check-plus) helps.

Not only will having their work reviewed by others lead to a better product, research has shown that when students spend time reviewing someone else's work their own work improves as well. (Anecdotally, I also find that for some reason students are more embarrassed about turning in shoddy work to their peers than they are to me, so even the first drafts tend to be better!)

In the end, your students have learned something about providing useful feedback, they've gone through a revision process they might not otherwise have done on their own, and you have the pleasure of grading a much more polished set of submissions.

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