Response, Not Review: Impressions from Facilitating Effective Peer Response

The first HWAC workshop of the 2022-2023 Academic Year emphasizes the difference between peer response and peer review, as well as how faculty can embed these practices into their coursework.

How do faculty in disciplines outside of writing build peer response into their curriculum and course design? This was the key question at hand during “Facilitating Effective Peer Response,” the first workshop of the Fall 2022 semester hosted by the Roger & Joyce Howe Center for Writing Excellence.

Will Chesher, PhD student in the Composition and Rhetoric program and Graduate Assistant Director with the Howe Writing Across the Curriculum Program, led Miami faculty in a discussion on how they can encourage effective discussion and feedback throughout the writing process. 22 faculty members from 14 different departments and disciplines were in attendance, including but not limited to those who teach courses in  Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, German, Linguistics, and Environmental Sciences.

The workshop focused on two key pillars: how to prepare students to give feedback and how to prepare students to use feedback, both with a focus on collaboration and conversation. By adequately preparing students to both provide and receive feedback, faculty can prepare students to participate in collaborative discourse.

“Peer response takes intentional planning and scaffolding to facilitate in a course,” Chesher said. “I think a lot of students have had negative experiences with peer response, but that is often due to the assignment being unclear and students not really knowing what to do in peer response–so students focus on grammar and editing because that's the low hanging fruit. So being intentional and thinking about what happens before, during, and after peer response is really important.”

Chesher also emphasized the difference between peer response versus peer review. “The word review connotes the academic peer review process: An expert reads a piece and then basically decides whether or not the piece is worth publishing or what revision needs to take place to get the piece ready for publishing,” he said. “This is a big ask of students who are still learning how to enter these communities of practice.”

Faculty can access additional resources on the Howe Writing Across the Curriculum website to aid in designing effective peer response systems: