Commit to peer review sessions

For peer review workshops to succeed, teachers and students must do their part to contribute.

by Alia Jeraj

Last week, I spent the last hour of one of my classes doing a “peer review workshop.” Weirdly, I love reviewing other people’s work, so theoretically, I should love peer review workshops. And, theoretically, I should think they’re wonderful. In practice, however, I find them generally frustrating, uninspiring and a waste of time. 
Aside from classes specifically about the writing process, many of us are woefully unprepared to review our peers’ essays. Professors often hand us a rubric explaining their expectations and tell us, “Go.”
An uncomfortable atmosphere usually ensues as class-goers struggle between providing enough helpful feedback and avoiding comments that may seem too critical. All the while, everyone seems a little unsure about what they should be critiquing, exactly.
Further, I know I’ve brought essay drafts to workshops that I would never even think of handing into a professor. I’ve found that many students exploit the idea of a “rough” draft. Thus, because these drafts are not as well-planned as they could be, any feedback we receive becomes significantly less helpful to our writing process.
We shouldn’t completely forego the idea of peer reviewing, however. It can prove extremely helpful to read our peers’ work and exchange ideas about topics and the writing process. 
If peer review sessions are to be productive, we must truly commit to the process of reviewing. Professors must ensure students have clear guidelines on how to review, and students must be responsible for bringing in quality drafts to class. 
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].