Discount Peer Response: An update

Posted: January 28, 2008 in Discount Peer Response, iteration, Pedagogy

<edit: I don’t know why the paragraphs didn’t come through. Hopefully, they’re visible now. sorry about that.>

I mentioned already that I tried DPR in class. I wanted to take some time and go into specifics for how I did it, so that any who care to try themselves have a baseline to jump from.I began by asking my class how many of them had done peer response in some form in the past. Virtually everyone said they had. I followed up by asking how many of them had gotten any real help from doing it. The number of hands decreased dramatically.

So I asked those who got help what kind of help they got. For the most part, they could tell me nothing more than help with grammar and spelling. The only other comment was that sometimes it helps to have someone else tell you your paper is good.

I then turned to the rest of the class and asked them why peer response didn’t help them in the past. Some people said they didn’t know what to look for, some said that they just focused on little things because that’s what they were supposed to do, some said they didn’t trust one another, and some said they didn’t know what to look for.

Then I started talking about how everyone knows what they do badly (Simmons, I think). Every writer knows where he or she is weak. To illustrate this, I started writing a list on the board. First I asked for volunteers, then went around the room. “What do you suck at?” I asked.Once we had the list, I mentioned that one of the biggest problems people have when peer editing is the fear of hurting someone’s feelings. To fight that, I first told them that the harsher they were with peer criticism, the better their grades would be. To make it even easier, before they started peer response, I had them write a SFD (Shitty First Draft), a paper that was intentionally bad. That way, when they pointed out things that were bad, it was okay, they were meant to be bad. This way, people wouldn’t be defensive.

Then we turned back to the list on the board. I asked them if anyone had ever given them a list of prompts to follow when doing peer response. I got a few nods (from all those who said that they’d benefited from peer response, among others), but it was soon raised (by me in one class, by them in the other) that prompts don’t always help.

I agreed that they don’t help. And the reason they don’t help is because they aren’t personalized. How can anyone write a list of prompts when not everyone has the same problems? So I walked the students through making their own personal list of prompts, based on the items on the board. I told them to be specific. Not just “I need help with openings,” but “I think my opening is too long” or “My opening needs to be more interesting.”

I put the students into groups and told them to exchange contact information. These groups would not be permanent, but would guarantee that there were at least two people in class they could get in touch with if they needed to. Between that class and the next, they had to have one round of peer response, including writing a new draft based on the comments. The next day, we talked about what had worked. People brought up problems they had (they didn’t know what to say, they couldn’t get in touch with everyone in their group, they felt like they were rambling) both in the peer response and the paper as a whole. We discussed how to change things in the future, how to make it work better.

One interesting thing that I noticed. Half a dozen students decided after the first round of peer response to start over from scratch. I assured them that it was a legitimate draft and a legitimate technique to do that, and I wrote down how many did it (so I could post it here).After we talked about it and about the paper, they had to do a second round of peer response before handing the paper in (and up to 3 more for extra credit). Those are due today. I’ll find out shortly how well this all worked, and if my students are taking it seriously.

  1. cbd says:

    This helps. Keep updating this. I think it’s worth mining for other bits as well which connect to your research.

    But, paragraphs! 🙂

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