Do my students need to peer review?
In short, yes. And the answer to your next question can be found in the rest of this all-too-brief, digestible, 5-minute-read blog.
Why should your students participate in peer review? Why is it important?
Research shows that peer-reviewing helps students become better writers. The skills that it builds in them can significantly improve their writing and reading. But it does take prep work, time, and lots of practice before they really start reaping the benefits.
First things first. Students need to understand what revision is, what the purpose is, and what effective revision looks like. Many times, they don't really know what it means to revise so they settle with simply editing. But revision is one of the most important parts of the writing process and helps authors effectively communicate with their readers. Even if they do know that revision is bigger than surface-level edits, they may not know how to read their writing to evaluate it and point out any problems. So start with the old "I do, we do, you do" approach and walk your students through how to critically read an essay.
We have a great resource on how to effectively model reading for review here. Students need clear expectations and lots of practice to learn how to conduct useful peer reviews. The better they are with reviewing the writing of others, the more prepared they'll be to revise their own work.
One of the most impactful benefits of peer review is learning how to address the audience. As a reviewer, student writers become the reader. They are better able to understand the perspective and needs of the reader, developing a sense of audience, and gain experience detecting and diagnosing problems that they may not be able to do in their own writing yet. Something that many young writers have difficulty with while reading their own work is reading what they meant to write, whereas when they are reading essays written by others will help them learn how to read what the text says and not an inferred meaning. Becoming the audience gives students an "in their shoes" experience that they can then take into account when they write their next piece.
After reading an essay written by a peer, students will give the authors feedback. But to go beyond the basic and superficial "It was good" or "I don't like this" comments that students tend to stick to will take practice and support from you. Knowing exactly what to look for and having explicit guidelines will give students direction. The act of leaving constructive and helpful feedback can be beneficial for both the receiver of feedback and the one who left the comments. At this point, the reviewer has read, evaluated, and left helpful feedback on someone else's writing. These ideas are now something they can then take to improve their own writing.
Once they have been the audience, student writers have a better understanding of how to read their own work as a reader instead of the author. They have an idea of what the audience needs, and have received comments and suggestions to help them clarify, expand upon, and streamline their ideas. This is when true revision will happen. But this isn't the end. To allow maximum room for growth and understanding, open some time and space for whole-class or small-group discussions where students can reflect on the process of evaluation and revision, the challenges they face, and possible solutions to the challenges.
So yes. Your students do need peer review. Peer review done right takes time and practice. Peer review done well provides so much support and so many benefits for your students. If you need any help with how to get started in your class, let us know! MI Write makes it easy for you while challenging and supporting your students.
Philippakos, Z. A. (2017). Giving Feedback: Preparing Students for Peer Review and Self-Evaluation. The Reading Teacher, 71(1), 13-22.
Cho, K., & MacArthur, C. (2011). Learning by Reviewing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(1), 73-84