2Fer Peer Editing Practices.

Peer editing is a real cornerstone of the English program at SLA. From freshman year on, we edit on paper, online, in the Lit Lab… I hope to devote some time describing each of these systems, but for now I want to focus on how we use Google Docs for peer editing in the 11th grade.

The set-up is simple enough — you come in with a draft, share your Google Doc with a student at your table, and we’re off to the races. The commenting function in GDocs (Command + Option + M on a Mac) still has a novelty to it, and soon students are typing furiously into their peer’s papers.

Students are used to this process by the 11th grade, so I don’t spend much time discussing norms for respect and constructive criticism. Last year, however, students did give me some mid-year feedback that they felt quality of peer editing varied widely, for a variety of reasons. To help close the gap between students, I instigated a couple of policies:

1. When you come into class, your responsibility is immediately to your peer’s paper, not your own. Students with incomplete drafts would sometimes steal every spare second to expand their own paper, instead of giving their undivided energy to their peer. Making that explicitly off-limits has eliminated the behavior.

2. Because 2Fers vary in topic, originally I didn’t have an editing checklist or set of guidelines (I know, I know.) Now students get a slip with the following four reminders:

  • [   ] I reworded the thesis in my own words, and made suggestions as necessary.
  • [   ] At the end of each paragraph, I commented on how this section supported the thesis (or not).
  • [   ] I read the paper for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage.
  • [   ] I checked the paper and deleted/reworded where they used the first or second person – “I” “me” “my” “we” “our” “you” “your”
Right now this list is used as a self-assessment. While I certainly use the guidelines as a nudge for struggling and/or lazy editors, their primary function is to facilitate engagement with peers, not to force a structure or program on the individual. We had our first peer editing session on Friday, and at the end of class the discussions between students were earnest, thorough, and I was barely involved. Which was really, really excellent… and not just because I was using the time to do some rapid-fire tech troubleshooting. If the goal is to make them capable of managing the entire writing process on their own, we’re well on our way.

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