peer response (composition)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Peer response is primarily a revision process, not an editing process. (KidStock/Getty Images)

Definition

In composition studies, peer response is a form of collaborative learning in which writers meet (usually in small groups, either face-to-face or online) to respond to one another's work. Also called peer review and peer feedback.

In Steps to Writing Well (2011), Jean Wyrick summarizes the nature and purpose of peer response in an academic setting: "By offering reactions, suggestions, and questions (not to mention moral support), your classroom colleagues may become some of your best writing teachers."

The pedagogy of student collaboration and peer response has been an established field in composition studies since the late 1970s.

See the observations below. Also see:


Observations

  • "The teacherless writing class . . . tries to take you out of darkness and silence. It is a class of seven to twelve people. It meets at least once a week. Everyone reads everyone else's writing. Everyone tries to give each writer a sense of how his words were experienced. The goal is for the writer to come as close as possible to being able to see and experience his own words through seven or more people. That's all."
    (Peter Elbow, Writing Without Teachers. Oxford University Press, 1973; rev. ed. 1998)
     
  • "Writing collaboratively has all the characteristics that theorists of cognitive development maintain are essential for the intellectual commitments of adulthood: The experience is personal. The response groups promote intellectual risk taking within a community of support. They allow students to focus on issues that invite the application of academic knowledge to significant human problems. Thinking and writing are grounded in discussion and debate. Reading and responding to peers' writing asks for interpersonal and personal resolution of multiple frames of reference. In this sense, collaborative writing courses at all levels provide an essential opportunity to practice becoming members of an intellectual, adult community."
    (Karen I. Spear, Peer Response Groups in Action: Writing Together in Secondary Schools. Boynton/Cook, 1993)
     
  • Peer Review Guidelines for the Reviewer
    "If you are the reviewer, remember that the writer has spent a long time on this work and is looking to you for constructive help, not negative comments. . . . In that spirit, offer suggestions about how to revise some of the awkward places, rather than merely listing them. Instead of saying 'This opener doesn't work!' indicate why it doesn't work and offer possible alternatives. . . .

    "It is also important that you try to read the piece from the point of view of the intended audience. Do not try to reformulate a technical report into a novel or vice versa. . . .

    "As you read, make no comments to the author--save them for later. If you need to ask the writer for clarification of the prose, that is likely a flaw in the writing and needs to be noted for discussion after you have finished reading the entire piece."
    (Kristin R. Woolever, About Writing: A Rhetoric for Advanced Writers. Wadsworth, 1991)
     
  • Benefits and Pitfalls of Peer Response
    "[A] number of practical benefits of peer response for L2 [second-language] writers have been suggested by various authors:
     
    1. Students gain confidence, perspective, and critical thinking skills from being able to read texts by peers on similar tasks.
    2. Students get more feedback on their writing than they could from the teacher alone.
    3. Students get feedback from a more diverse audience bringing multiple perspectives.
    4. Students receive feedback from nonexpert readers on ways in which their texts are unclear as to ideas and language.
    5. Peer review activities build a sense of classroom community.
    On the other hand, researchers, teachers, and student writers themselves have identified potential and actual problems with peer response. The most prominent complaints are that student writers do not know what to look for in their peers' writing and do not give specific, helpful feedback, that they are either too harsh or too complimentary in making comments, and that peer feedback activities take up too much classroom time (or the corollary complaint that not enough time is allotted by teachers and the students feel rushed)."
    (Dana Ferris, Response to Student Writing: Implications for Second Language Students. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2003)


    Also Known As: peer feedback, peer review, collaboration, peer criticism, peer evaluation, peer critique