Professor Jay Simmons studied the differences in the peer evaluation of high school students for three years. His thesis states that even the brightest of kids don’t necessarily have what it takes to peer review. “Students need practice reading one another’s work while giving and receiving feedback before they do more than edit or offer global praise.”
Simmons had a combination of variables to support his claim. Using two urban and two rural high schools, he then pair them up with a community college and a state college. They would then review each other’s work. What he found was the rural school had more experience with the peer review process as they are required to successfully complete a semester-long writing workshop for graduation. The urban schools followed the John Collins writing program. In that program, students read each other’s work and comment on “focus correction areas” although it mentions going beyond the word and sentence level of mechanics. They were basically looking for mistakes rather than actual content.
When peer response is given, it ranges from global praise to personal response. Simmons references past studies from 1983 to 1997 that: students want global praise and resent sarcasm; the early signs of writing workshops occur when kids demand more than a simple “I liked your story.”; children have different standards than adults; even in college when the teacher is around, students make positive comments (Straub (1997), Graves (1983), Newkirk (1984), Tobin (1993).
Familiar name, Murray (1985) comments on the personal responses. While students, sometimes even teachers, think of themselves as therapists, reacting to the writer’s life and not the writing; students who need therapy should get it, not just in writing class.
I agree with Simmons’ claim. At my school (glorious K-12) we started peer review early. My earliest memory of it would be second grade. While we did start it early, it was nothing more than Global Praise Central. Even then, I would get mad when I got stuck with that one kid who had no idea what he was doing and just said “It was good”.
With this just passed peer review session, Olivia helped me out a bit. She made the comment that my thesis was out of place and abrupt; with which I agree. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote that draft. I believe that peer review strategies can be taught over one semester. That’s what they did at Adams in the passage I read.