More DPR updates

Posted: January 31, 2008 in Discount Peer Response, iteration, Pedagogy

I’ve finished grading the first set of papers. These papers, remember, were written exclusively with DPR. Not surprisingly, some people got no help at all from the peer edits. In probably half those cases, the reason they got no help was that they ignored the suggestions that were provided. The rest of the time, suggestions remained on the surface.

What was surprising was that, on the whole, the papers were better. I think I graded more harshly because of my own new grading policy (that students who want an A in the course have to rewrite papers until they are of A quality), but even still, the vast majority of my students received a B or better. But that’s not what I mean by the papers being better.

When I graded papers last semester, I was astounded by how many students forgot to do little things, like include a title page. I would say that at least 30% of the students forgot that particular item. Considering that there were only 10 items they were being graded on (which they chose as a class), and that a title page is SUCH an easy thing to do, that was a bit surprising.

This time around, there were 3 papers without title pages. Out of 40, that’s pretty good. But there’s more.

The usual surface errors were very much lessened. I didn’t have to tell nearly as many students to read sentences out loud, there weren’t nearly as many run-ons, and most of the other surface issues (tense, comma placement, etc) were pointed out by peers, and usually addressed. I had to be nitpicky to find surface errors, which was refreshing.

Those who really listened to the advice of their peers had some pretty substantial changes from draft to draft. Instead of the old method, where I had to constantly flip back and forth between copies to try and find some kind of difference, the changes were pretty glaring. And the more they listened to their peers, the better the papers were.

In the past, I’ve noticed a very specific trend: those who do extra credit don’t need it. More than half of the A’s on every paper had gotten extra credit. Extra credit meant they had gotten someone else to respond to their draft, and revised accordingly, on their own time; in other words, they engaged in DPR.

This time around, those who did extra drafts tended towards the higher range of grades (and the extra credit will technically boost them to an A- on the paper), but not nearly as many did it, and the difference was not nearly as striking.

Maybe this isn’t all because of DPR. After all, one of the side effects is that the students hand me at worst their 3rd draft. Maybe the simple fact that I’m getting a 3rd draft (instead of a 2nd) is making this difference. On the other hand, even if that is true, doesn’t that just suggest that DPR is working?

Some students complained that the people in their groups didn’t help them. I’ve decided to let those who aren’t willing to help self-select themselves out of good grades; if a student told me that someone didn’t help them, I advised the student to seek help from someone else, and to refuse to help those who won’t help them. Maybe that’s not the best thing to do. I suppose one could suggest that this will prevent those who don’t know how to help from learning how. But looking at the drafts and comments, and listening to the way students described the process with these people, I don’t think that’s what’s going on; those who don’t know how to peer respond ask about it in class. We’ve spent time talking about what to do. The ones who don’t help aren’t helping because they don’t want to. They don’t care. They likely will be perfectly happy to take a C or a B and go on their merry ways.

<digression>

Which reminds me of something else that’s interesting. 8 of the 22 students in one class want an A (meaning they are willing to rewrite until they earn one). 17 out of 20 in the other class want one. My expectation is that both of those numbers will drop off as the semester goes on and they see what kind of work that means, but I think it’s fascinating the difference in classroom culture between the two classes.

There is a downside to this grading policy of mine. Next week, in addition to the 40 or so papers I will get (their next paper is due Wednesday), I will also be getting 23 rewrites (presumably) from the 23 out of 25 that did not get an A the first time out. That means a lot of grading for me.

Honestly, though, I’m expecting to only get about 20. I think some people will decide that getting an A isn’t worth it.

</digression>

Overall, I think that DPR is working. I’ll talk about it in class tomorrow and Monday, see what they think and how they want to change things, but the responses I’ve gotten so far (in a process write, in conferences, and after class) has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I don’t think anyone has complained about peer response yet, beyond that the people they worked with didn’t help them. That’s a first for me.

There will be more updating as I go through paper 2, and as I talk to the students about how things went.

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