Clickers, Peer Review, and the Teaching of Writing

My latest guest post on ProfHacker is now available: “Using Clickers to Facilitate Peer Review in a Writing Seminar.” Some backstory…

Back in 2008, I interviewed Kori Street of Mount Royal University for my book. She described her use of clickers to facilitate peer assessment of group projects in her history courses. She found that her students were hesitant to critique each other’s work, so she used clickers to let them evaluate their peers’ work anonymously. This helped them become more comfortable providing honest and constructive verbal feedback. For instance, students who might hesitate to question the quality of a peer’s sources would be more likely to do so after seeing that, for example, 40% of their peers agreed that those sources were lacking.

Since interviewing Kori, I’ve shared this technique in various workshops. Faculty members who routinely have their students assess each other’s work (such as those teaching writing and studio art classes) have supported Kori’s observation that students are often reluctant to criticize their peers publicly. This reluctance is often a roadblock to the kinds of probing and useful conversations peer review is meant to encourage. Kori’s observation that clickers can help overcome this roadblock has been echoed by other instructors as well.

This fall, I’m teaching a writing seminar for the first time, and I was eager to try my hand at using clickers to facilitate peer review. It went well enough that I wanted to share the experience here on the blog. As I was putting together a post, however, I realized the experiment would be an interesting one to share with the ProfHacker audience. Although Peter Sorrell called my approach “asinine,” I’m still glad I shared it. (Sorrell later clarified his comment.) I hope the post gives those who teach writing a different and useful perspective on facilitating peer review.

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