Peer review is sooo high school?

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I don’t write often on the BUWC blog. Not because I don’t want to, but because I think this should be a space for student-to-student interactions. But, since the BU writing consultants are pretty busy with the end of the semester so near, I’m going to take a shot at contributing.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about in-class peer review– I’ve been invited to a few classes to discuss peer review pros, cons, and best practices. I know a lot of students approach peer review with at best an eye roll and at worst a flat-out refusal to engage. At this point you might even be thinking: “Peer review? That’s something I did in high school. And what does it have to do with the Writing Center anyway?”

At its core, peer review has a lot in common with the writing center– peers collaborating on writing. Peers honestly and respectfully responding as readers and writers. Those descriptions fit both what happens in the Writing Center every day and what happens during in-class peer review. One key difference during in-class peer review is that students get the advantage of speaking with others working on the same or similar project– so there’s the benefit of seeing how someone else approached the same assignment directions. Further, it might be easier to look at one’s own writing objectively after giving feedback to a peer. For example, someone else might have focused on answering one question in the prompt that you completely overlooked.

In addition to the benefit of seeing how someone else approaches the assignment and getting the honest response from a real reader, peer review helps build skills in teamwork and collaboration. Employers, graduate schools, and professional schools will be looking for applicants who not only have strong writing skills, but those that have good interpersonal skills and the ability to provide constructive feedback. I can’t think of a better way to work on both than giving someone honest feedback on his or her writing.

So, to more directly answer the question, “Isn’t peer review just something just for high schoolers?”, my answer is a resounding “no.” There’s a reason why academic journals are referred to as “peer-reviewed:” academics go through a formal process of peer review every time they wish to have a work considered for publication. In any given office, coworkers are asking one another for suggestions and feedback before sending an important email, publishing an ad, or finalizing the company newsletter. Practicing peer review in the classroom will hopefully not only give you a boost on completing your assignment for a given class, but it can also be an opportunity to hone skills that will benefit you as a professional no matter what field or career you envision for yourself.

I would like to give a shout out to the IDC 101 class I’ll be visiting this afternoon for peer review– IDC 101 with Kristen Wallitsch. Looking forward to it!

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