Question: Do peer comments on writing help students improve their writing?
Answer: “Examined composing aloud protocols of college freshmen as they revised three drafts of a paper, once after a student-teacher conference, once following peer evaluation, and once after receiving comments from their own writing group. Suggests that peer evaluations are not always helpful.” C Berkenkotter, 1983, 423-424.
Comment: Peer review must be organized and directed.
I suggest three steps in peer review. First students check for unity. Writer and partner fold a sheet of paper lengthwise. The writer summarizes the main idea on one side. The partner reads the paper silently and then summarizes the main idea on the other side. They compare the two expressions of the main idea. If they are fairly close, the paper is probably unified. If not, the writer needs to check thesis sentence, topic sentences and concluding paragraph.
Second, the partner reads the paper silently again. Puts a question mark in the margin of ideas that are not expressed clearly. The writer then decides whether the idea is clear. If not, the expression of the idea needs to be examined, or, perhaps, the idea is not completely expressed.
Third, the writer reads aloud the composition for smoothness of expression. If the writer stumbles while reading aloud, or needs to go back and re-read, the writer needs to check for awkward expression. A variation is to have the partner also read aloud.
None of these steps dictates changes, but they require the writer to think and reflect on unity, clarity and smoothness. RayS.
Title: “Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.” RK Durst and JD Marshall. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1984), 417-438.