Instructor Guide
Created in partnership between the Virginia Tech Composition Program, Digital Literacy Initiative, and Technology-Enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, this module ("learning session") covers the best practices for peer review. Promoting peer-to-peer feedback on multiple stages of drafting is a crucial part of writing instruction. Through this learning session, students will gain a clearer understanding of their role as a peer reviewer and will acquire a simple, theoretical vocabulary meant to help them generate helpful and effective feedback for their peers.
This learning session is designed to take about 50 minutes and includes 3 short videos and 7 informal writing activities. It concludes with a discussion post as the final deliverable. 
Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this learning session, students should be able to do the following:
     Explain the role of a peer reviewer as an empathetic, friendly reader
     Practice writing peer review comments that are specific and focused on higher-order concerns
     Reflect on personal experiences with peer review and feedback 
How to Use This Learning Session

The design of this learning session allows for students to complete most learning activities asynchronously, concluding with a discussion post (or comparable in-class discussion or informal writing activity) as the only deliverable to be considered for evaluation according to your course policies for discussion posts or classroom participation.
The module is designed for students' informal writing responses to be private and ungraded; such opportunities are valuable for engaging students in earnest reflection and metacognition. Moreover, letting students choose the material conditions of their own writing space (e.g. handwriting in a personal notebook or typing in their preferred notes app or word processor) promotes agency in their literacy development.
This module could be used prior to completing the first peer review activity in your course, which would promote higher-level feedback right away. Alternatively, it could also be incorporated after the first peer review, which would allow students to reflect on and self-evaluate their peer review comments before and after completing the module. 
Recommended Follow-Up Activity (15–20 minutes)

This activity should take place after students have completed a peer review in which written feedback is exchanged. In this activity, prompt students to 'code' their own peer review comments according to the metrics introduced in this module: 
     Higher-order vs. lower-order concerns
     Specific vs. general
     Positive vs. critical
Conclude with a metacognitive reflective writing activity directing students to informally assess their own participation and contributions as peer reviewers based on the results of this coding exercise. Direct students to conclude these written responses with action items detailing ways in which they will modify their approach to future peer reviews.
Scholarly Context (Optional Further Reading for Instructors)

As early as Kenneth Bruffee’s influential essay on ‘collaborative learning’ in 1984, scholars have identified little utility in peer proofreading for grammatical, syntactical, or mechanical issues, particularly in early stages of drafting (645). Subsequent empirical studies in recent decades have evaluated students’ oral and written comments and compared early and late drafts of student writing to see whether or not peer feedback is used and whether or not it aids in writers’ development of content and strengthening of argumentation; these studies conclude that certain kinds of peer comments—specific comments addressing higher-order concerns—consistently prove more formatively useful for both the reviewer and the reviewee and result in better student writing (Bruffee; Byland; Nystrand; Reynolds and Russell). 
Firstly, optimal feedback addresses Higher-order concerns (HOCs), defined by Reynolds and Russell as “comments addressing writing issues beyond purely mechanical ones, such as comments about the writer’s ideas, arguments, and evidence, as well as organization, coherence, audience, tone, and use of sources,” as opposed to Lower-order concerns (LOCs), which pertain to “the mechanics of writing, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting” (33). 
Secondly, optimal review provides specific comments rather than offering “vague suggestions” or focusing on general concerns (Byland 60). Reynolds and Russell define specific comments as those “explicitly referring to language or a location within the students’ text,” as opposed to “generic comments,” which do not specifically refer to the text (33). Corroborating these results, Wei Zhu finds that productive peer review groups “are task oriented, focus on the global features [HOCs] of writing, provide accurate and specific feedback for one another, and engage in negotiation,” whereas unsuccessful groups “either rarely follow directions or perform tasks rather superficially” (406; emphasis added). 
When taking the perspective that the purpose of peer review is to promote revision, Nancy Sommers’ classic study on the difference between student writers’ and experienced adult writers’ approaches to revision also proves relevant. Sommers finds that students tend to view revision as a “rewording” activity with an emphasis on resolving lexical repetition (emphasizing LOCs), whereas experts see revision as a means to “discover (to create) meaning in the engagement with their writing” (emphasizing HOCs) (381-386).
Works Cited

Bruffee, Kenneth A. “Collaborative Learning and the ‘Conversation of Mankind.’”  College English, vol. 46, no. 7, Nov. 1984, pp. 635-652. 
Byland, Heather. “Educating Students about Peer Response.” Young Scholars in Writing, vol. 2, fall 2004, pp. 56-67.
Nystrand, Martin. “Learning to Write by Talking About Writing: A Summary of Research on Intensive Peer Review in Expository Writing Instruction at the University of Wisconsin- Madison.” The Structure of Written Communication: Studies in Reciprocity Between Writers and Readers, edited by Martin Nystrand, Academic Press, 1986, pp. 179-212. 
Reynolds, Julie and Vicki Russell. “Can You Hear Us Now?: A Comparison of Peer Review Quality when Students Give Audio Versus Written Feedback.” The WAC Journal, vol. 19, Aug. 2008, pp. 29-44. 
Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 31, no. 4, Dec. 1980, pp. 378-388. 
Straub, Richard. "Responding—Really Responding—to Other Students’ Writing." The Subject Is Writing: Essays by Teachers and Students, 3rd ed., edited by Wendy Bishop, 3th ed., Boyton/Cook-Heinemann, 2003, pp. 162–172.
Zhu, Wei. “Effects of Training for Peer Response on Students’ Comments and Interaction.” Written Communication, vol. 12, no. 4, Oct. 1995, pp. 492-528.

This learning session was funded by a Pathways Development Grant awarded by Pathways: General Education at Virginia Tech. The materials were created in partnership between the Virginia Tech Composition Program, Digital Literacy Initiative, and Technology-Enhanced Learning and Online Strategies. 
Tim Becker
Julia Feerrar
Yemi Awotayo

Chloe Robertson
Kayla McNabb
Katlyn Griffin
Lisa Becksford
Special Thanks
Derek Mueller
Stefanie Kinzie
Aaron Bond
Eunice Ofori
Marc Zaldivar
Stephen Biscotte
André Jones Jr.