Written by Beth Eyres and Lisa Moore

Arising out of the Professional Development Day the English Department holds during the week of accountability, a professional learning community made up of eCourse composition instructors is taking shape. During a breakout session on what was working/not working in our online and hybrid classes, we all bemoaned the peer review process. Every instructor uses it, and every instructor has tried countless ways to get the process to work and to leave with head held high after a peer review exercise.

After expressing interest in meeting to continue our conversations about peer review and taking a survey on our current practices, the PLC was born.

In our first meeting, buoyed by snacks, we discussed how instructors often assign a peer review activity just before the final draft of a paper is due.  We questioned the practice of isolating peer review to a single point in the writing process.

What if peer review was an ongoing activity that took place throughout all stages of the writing process? 

Could we increase “student buy-in” if we were to dedicate more instructional time to teaching strategies for approaching peer review, and practiced, throughout the semester, how to offer feedback, from reader to writer?

We are going to read the research on student peer review as part of the writing process and to share it with each other. We are also planning to use our classes to implement new ideas surrounding peer review and reporting back to the PLC on how it went. In short, we are going to rely on the research and the expertise of each other as we grow our understanding of the writing process and peer review specifically.

Our goal is to move our current peer review practices away from feeling like the review activity exists in a bubble, or that peer review is a box that students need to check off for a grade, to a meaningful and authentic part of the writing process. We expect that more effective peer review practices and more emphasis on review overall should not only increase student success in writing, but also enhance the sense of community in our classroom though an authentic exchange of ideas between writers and readers.

Steps we took to form the professional learning community:

  • expressed some frustration, curiosity, and willingness to collaborate,
  • sent a Doodle for when everyone could meet,
  • reserved a meeting space and invited everyone from earlier group,
  • surveyed the group on current practices,
  • met for first time,
  • hashed out our complaints with current practices,
  • set up norms for future meetings,
  • picked meeting times and reserved place,
  • sent calendar invites to everyone participating,
  • made a plan for the next meeting,
  • and, maybe most importantly, agreed to keep it no pressure.

Are you in a professional learning community? What are you investigating or learning about? Do you want to start one? Let us know in the comments.

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