On Friday, Seth Goodman and I will be presenting at the TYCA West Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our presentation is titled: Making Peer Review More Relevant and Engaging by Doing It Online and Adding Asynchronous Discussion. The presentation stems from the research we did for my MIL project last year on the same topic. My research focus was on researching effective practices to structure online asynchronous discussions with particular emphasis on student led small group interaction. The goal is to publish our paper and share the research with other educators, which is the MIL’s secondary purpose to create a community of scholars that will engage in conversations about the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Our 80 minutes presentation will begin with a brief discussion on peer review and asynchronous discussion. My focus will be to highlight the benefits of doing peer review and to explain how we did peer review online using Connect Composition. Seth will then do a brief overview of asynchronous discussion and discuss its elements, affordances, limitations and considerations. This segment will be followed by an overview of MIL and our project, and we will finish with our findings from the study.
You can view our slides below. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments area below this post.
The following post is part of my MIL research project and is the first of four posts that describe the asynchronous discussion assignments I used in the study: peer review/small group discussion, medium group discussion with very directive guidelines, social bookmarking with Diigo discussions, and multimedia discussion forums.
Most people don’t think of peer reviews of student essays as discussion, and if you stop at the step where students provide feedback to each other on the written work, then yes, there’s not much discussion going on there. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn peer review into a meaningful asynchronous discussion activity. Here’s how I run peer reviews in my ENG102 class. First I create groups of 3-4 students. Then I set up the questions that I want for students to answer during the peer review process. Giving students specific things to comment on helps them stay focused and makes it easier for them to provide meaningful feedback. The questions usually stem from the rubric that was provided to students during the writing process. My thought is that if students composed their essays under certain guidelines, providing feedback based on those guidelines could be helpful. So for example, the rubric points out that 10 points are awarded for a strong thesis statement that either takes a position or proposes a solution to a problem. During the peer review process, I ask students to review the essays of the students in their group and answer the provided questions. One question instructs students to highlight what they think is the thesis, identify it as either a position or proposal statement, and then weigh in on whether the thesis is a strong thesis or not. During the writing phase, students are tasked with writing a strong thesis, so this feedback they receive from peers is valuable.
Once each student has participated in this phase of the peer review, they are instructed to move over to Piazza for a small group discussion on the peer review process. This discussion is open ended with no specific guidelines about what needs to take place. The instructions simply ask students to continue the discussion from the peer review by providing further commentary on the overall work that each student did for the essay assignment. Comments in this phase of the asynchronous discussion activity are the ones I found most enlightening. Many students took this time to thank their group mates for the valuable feedback they provided in the peer review phase. They express their pleasure in participating in such activity, and showed enthusiasm for helping each other. One group was so exciting to start the discussion phase that they started their own group before the instructor had a chance to set it up.
An additional benefit to a discussion like this is the opportunity to build community among students. If students feel like there are others who are willing to read their paper and provide valuable feedback, they often feel obligated to do the same – provide valuable feedback back. But they also grow to like the people in their group forming a bond that carries over to other activities in the class. I often find groups start to ask questions of each other instead of asking the instructor. This is facilitated if you have a good tool to do so, which is why I adopted Piazza to help with Q&A and discussions in my class. Students don’t feel like they are alone in this process after they’ve completed the first peer review/discussion assignment.
At GCC we have another option for conducting online peer review assignments in the composition course. I previously posted about the option I use in Connect Composition, but today I want to share with you a 2nd way that a few of our faculty are using. Below is the method that Gary Lawrence uses. I posted previously about his heads up about this process, but this post will give a few more details on how it all works. He even shared a video below that he made for students to show them the peer review process.
It’s not a perfect process, but it works well enough if you don’t have access to Connect Composition. It requires that students have MS Word to be able to “track changes” and leave comments on the documents. There are work arounds for that, but it might further complicate the process. Below is an image Gary created for students to explain the peer review process to them. Read more
Below is a guest post from Gary Lawrence, adjunct English faculty member teaching online and hybrid at GCC. He shares his experience with doing peer reviews using Canvas and points out one minor flaw in Canvas that everyone should be aware of to help out this process. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll pass them on to Gary.
This is the way the peer review process works in Canvas: As part of a draft assignment, I usually let Canvas assign the peer reviews automatically. The cleanest way to do that, I think, is to “lock” submissions, so you don’t have a bunch of late contenders to deal with. So under the draft assignment, I give a due date, and then I select “more options” (shown in blue box below) and check “require peer reviews,” “automatically assign peer reviews,” pick the number of reviews per student, tell Canvas when to assign the peer reviews (default = assignment due date), and then “lock submits after (date)” to keep it clean. I also happen to restrict inputs to .doc or .docx files so students can use “track changes” features of MS Word for line comments.
Three years ago when we did our last book adoption, one of the features we were looking for was a way to do peer reviews on student essays in an online environment. We chose a McGraw-Hill text because they had a tool that does this well. The tool is called Connect Composition and it comes packaged with our traditional textbook. Also built into our version of Connect is an online handbook, The McGraw-Hill Handbook. But within Connect we have the ability to set up peer review writing assignments. We can schedule the number of drafts we want to have for the writing assignment, choose pre-made review questions or write our own, and choose the size and makeup of the groups. It’s a pretty slick way to do peer reviews, and it’s really easy for students.
Below I created a video for students showing them how to participate in our most recent peer review writing assignment. Feel free to use this video with your own students if you are using Connect in your classes.