CUNY COMPosition & Rhetoric Community

The Indirect Benefits of Using Peer Review Writing Exercises.

(Sean Molloy 14 Sep. 2015)

Overview:  This Assignment Package simply offers a variety of models of peer review exercises.  Of course, peer review is not limited to digital classrooms.  These exercises will work in paper or digital classrooms.  They can be a model for faculty workshops as we have done at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, or they can serve as brainstorming material for teachers planning any syllabi.   Any of these models can be mixed and matched, adopted or adapted depending on your teaching goals and class preferences.

Benefits:  Peer review exercises can be an invaluable collaborative learning tool that can:

  • transcend teacher-centric power structures;
  • empower student writers to offer and receive creative and critical feedback;
  • privilege student texts as serious objects of inquiry;
  • encourage students to develop friendships and valuable peer networks;
  • guide students how to become independent writers who can learn without teachers;
  • teach students critical collaborative working skills which are transferable in almost any writing situation;
  • offer metacognitive insights into collaborative writing process.

Theoretical Background: In 1970, Kenneth Bruffee launched a collaborative teaching and writing program at Brooklyn College that encouraged and began to theorize collaborate exercises in writing  and literature classes as a way to encourage student-centric learning and to empower students. (1972; 1984). In 1973, Peter Elbow imagined that peer review writing groups were such a powerful tool that they could eventually empower student writers to learn Writing Without Teachers. Over the last four decades, independent writers groups have become common tools outside and beyond writing classrooms; serious writers have come to recognize the tremendous value of sharing and evaluating their writing with their peers.

A critical note about peer review is that in many versions, the actual advice offered is of secondary, or even tertiary importance.  The primary value is in the process of sharing, reading and respectfully responding to the work of other writers and then reflecting on that process.

Works Cited 

Bruffee, Kenneth A. “Collaborative learning and ‘The Conversation of Mankind.’” College English. 46:7, 635-652 (1984). Web. 4 December 2012.

_____. A Short Course in Writing. Cambridge: Winthrop Pub, 1972. Print.

Elbow, Peter. Writing Without Teachers. (1973). 2d ed. New York: Oxford U P, 1998. Print

Elbow, Peter and Patricia Belanoff. Sharing and Responding. 3rd ed., Boston: McGraw Hill, 2000. Print.

Lundstrom, Kristi and Wendy Baker. “To Give is Better Than To Receive: The Benefits of Peer Review to the Reviewer’s Own Writing.” Journal of Second language Writing. 18, 30-43. (2009). Web. 4 Dec. 2012.

Perl, Sondra and Mimi Schwartz. Writing True: The Art and Craft of Non-Fiction, 2d ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2014. Print.