By Dr. Jeanine Irons
One way to approach a writing-intensive course online is to focus on the writing process, as opposed to the finished products, by assigning multiple drafts and peer editing exercises for each paper. . You can do this by assigning students to editing groups from the beginning of the course and grading the process of writing along the way. This may mean that students write and submit fewer papers in a semester; however, students may produce high quality papers using this process and engage deeply in the process of creating and editing academic writing.
This approach can have benefits for students as well as the professors. As students submit drafts and peer edits along the way, professors can trace the development of each piece, and students can coach each other and themselves toward achievement of the course goals. In terms of grading, students can earn points for writing their drafts and for editing their peers’ drafts; having some smaller grades figured in can help to offset the larger grades for the final drafts. Students also may earn better grades on their final drafts after working through the peer editing process than they might have earned otherwise. Some benefits for the professors may include increased student engagement and authentic practice, perhaps easier papers to read, and perhaps increased academic integrity. In my course, students who did not have drafts ready on time did not receive a peer edit response; they quickly realized that the peer edit feedback was far too important to miss, therefore, drafts tended to be ready on time. This reinforced such skills as punctuality, team effort, and time management.
To use this process, faculty may find it useful to provide a list of peer editing questions for students to use. Given the objectives of the course, the assignment, and the number of the draft, professors can assign different questions from the list to be answered in response to different pieces of writing during the semester. It may be helpful for students to use the highlighting and commenting functions on their PCs as they work through the assigned questions. Regardless of the questions assigned, the peer editors should read the paper prior to responding. Having more than two people in each editing group can help to ensure that each draft gets a fresh pair of eyes on it each time and therefore, gets fresh insight.
Following is a list that Jeanine Irons used when she taught a writing-intensive course. She has given permission for faculty to change this list to suit their course or as a springboard for their own, brand-new questions. To create this list, she first brainstormed a list of common mistakes that students had made in the course in the past, and then she wrote questions designed to ferret out those mistakes and provide guidance. Next, she wrote a list of things students had done well in previous classes and rewrote those into guiding questions. She repeated this process to tweak the list each semester. To grade, she spot-checked a few drafts and peer edits at random each time, offered some feedback as necessary, gave everyone participation points, and returned the drafts and peer edits right away, so that students could begin working on their next drafts. This created greater agency in the students because they knew that they would only receive insructor feedback twice per paper - once on a draft and once on the final paper.
After reading your peer’s essay, respond to the assigned questions as thoroughly as possible to provide meaningful feedback to the writer. Use your own paper. Be sure to sign your response.
- How effective is the introduction? In what way did it arouse your interest? How well does it establish context for the Thesis?
- What is the Thesis? Rewrite it in your own words. Is the Thesis specific and clear?
- How effectively does the body connect back to the Thesis? Where is this done especially well? Where is the connection shaky?
- How effective are the transitions between paragraphs? Between ideas within a paragraph? Before and after quotations?
- Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence or guiding idea that focuses the paragraph? Where not? Which are especially effective?
- Is there adequate support for the Thesis? Is there support for each assertion? Where might support be strengthened?
- Is each example analyzed fully? Are there at least two sentences explaining each quotation, one on its meaning and another on how that meaning relates to the overall idea the writer is proving (the Thesis)? If not, where is more analysis needed?
- Is the paper a cohesive unit? Which parts need to be connected more fully?
- How logical and convincing is the overall argument? If not entirely, why not?
- Are there ideas that run counter to the writer’s interpretation that are ignored in the paper?
- Is research used logically? How well does it relate to the writer’s own ideas?
- Does each quote appear to be accurate? (No apparent typos, no hard-to-believe facts?)
- Is there an effective signal phrase before each quote, paraphrase, or summary? Where are signal phrases missing?
- Is documentation for each paraphrase, quote, or summary given in parenthetical MLA form?
- Is each source used in the paper listed on the Works Cited page? Which sources are missing?
- Is each source on the Works Cited page used in the paper? Mark any sources not used in the paper.
- Has the writer expanded on the research, rather than just endorsing their ideas? If not, where might s/he expand?
- Identify three words, phrases or images in the paper that are especially strong, and explain why.
- List any ideas, images or words that need clarification and explain why.
- Indicate the parts of the essay that hold your interest and those that don’t. Explain why.
- Identify the parts of the topic that are most clearly addressed and any parts of the topic that are not yet addressed.
- Indicate any portions of the essay that need additional details, emphasis, or development.
- Identify any informal language that needs revision.
- Identify any portions of the essay that you think should be deleted and explain why.
- Explain any suggestions you have for reorganizing the essay to make it more effective.
- List any important question(s) not answered in the essay.
- Is 12-point Times New Roman font used for everything, including the page numbers, heading, paper, and Works Cited? Where is the appropriate font not used?
- Do any words appear to be misspelled? Circle them.
- Does each sentence express one complete thought, no more, and no less? Write “R-O” (Run-On) beside any sentence that seems to express more than one complete thought. Write “Frag” (Fragment) beside any sentence that seems to express less than a complete thought.
- Do you notice any grammatical errors such as subject/verb agreement or split infinitives? Circle them.