The process of giving and receiving feedback on other students’ writing goes by many names, including peer editing, peer grading, peer rating, peer evaluation, workshopping, and more. These seemingly interchangeable names entail different assumptions about what goes on in these interactions, from fixing errors to passing judgment to writing collaboratively.
For this session, we’ve chosen the term peer review in an effort to clarify the purpose and value of exchanging feedback with others. Peer review can be incredibly beneficial when reviewers (1) approach the process as friendly, empathetic readers, (2) balance positive and critical feedback, and (3) offer specific comments focused on higher-order concerns. Let’s take a look at what this entails.​​​​​​​
Preparation and Instructions
This session is designed to take about 50 minutes. It includes a warm-up question, 3 short videos, 5 reflective writing activities, and a cool-down question. you can complete in a notebook or word processor. Your activity responses are private and ungraded—you won't need to show them to anyone. 
What It Means to Be a Peer Reviewer
Warm-Up (5 minutes)
Warmup activities like stretching and low-rate cardio are critical for preparing your body for exercise; similarly, reflection and writing prepare your mind for learning, priming your cognitive resources and activating prior knowledge and experience.
Spend about 5 minutes writing a response to the following prompt:
Think of a time when you provided or received feedback on your writing, whether it was an essay, a story, or some other creative work. What was this experience like? What kind of feedback did you receive? How helpful was this feedback? How satisfied were you when you received this feedback or when you completed the peer review? 
Myths About Peer Review (10 Minutes)
This section covers common myths that cause anxiety and disengagement in peer review. Begin by watching the video, then complete activity #1 below.
Activity #1: Reflecting on Myths
After watching the video, access your writing space and spend a few minutes writing a response to the following questions:
Based on your past experiences, do you think that you may have believed one of the three common myths about peer review? What about your former peers? Did they rely on any of these myths when giving you feedback? 
What it Means to Be a Peer Reviewer (15 minutes)
This section describes the role that you should perform when reviewing peers' work. Begin by watching the video, then complete activities #2 and #3 below.
Video: "What It Means to Be a Peer Reviewer"
Activity #3: Trying Out Different Roles
After watching the video, read the following sample of student writing, then use your writing space to respond to the prompts below. The sample represents an excerpt of a first-year college student's first draft of a formal writing assignment, which will be revised and submitted for evaluation. For the assignment, students were asked to write about specific memories to give readers an impression of their childhood, hometown, or family.
Writing Sample:
“Back when I lived in north carolina, me and my brothers and dad used to go for walks around a small pond about a mile away in not that far around. One time, my brothers and I decided to flip over a canoe that was lying face down near the bank of the pond by the water. When we did, I almost fell over with surprise because what we found was a gigantic frog with its legs splayed out by it’s sides. Even my dad, who is not the most excitable guy, was amazed, and he compared it to the size of a dinner plate. It was as big as my head (but I was kid back then). But before any of us could take a picture or anything, it let out a deep grunt and then flopped into the water with a big splash like one of us had thrown a big stone or something. More than anything, I wish we took a picture because I’ve never seen one like that ever again."
Now, try out these activities:
     1. Approach this sample like a teacher trying to pass judgment on the merits and faults of the text. Write a comment for the student.
     2. Now approach this sample like a proofreader searching for errors. Write a comment pointing out a few things that need to be fixed.
     3. Now approach this sample like a writer planning to take over the text and revise it yourself. Write a comment for the student explaining how you would do it differently.
     4. Finally, approach this sample like a friendly reader. Write a comment engaging with and responding to the writer’s ideas.
Activity #3: Reflecting on Your Role
In your writing space, spend about 5 minutes writing a response to the following prompt:
Reflect on the comments you’ve written for Activity #2: Trying out Different Roles. How did your perspective and comments change depending on the role you performed? Which kind of comments would you prefer to receive from others on your own writing? Which role best describes how you’ve approached peer review in the past?
How to Write Effective Peer Review Comments (15 minutes)
This section explains two qualities that make for effective peer review comments. Begin by watching the video, then complete activities #5 and #6 below.
Video: "How to Write Effective Peer Review Comments"
Activity #4: Practicing Peer Review Comments
After watching the video, read the following sample of student writing, then use your writing space to respond to the prompts below. The sample represents an excerpt from a first-year college student's first draft of a formal essay, which will be revised and submitted for evaluation. For this assignment, students are asked to pick an issue they care about and attempt to persuade the reader of their position.
Writing Sample:
If you have cats, you probably love them and want the best for them. That’s why you should keep them indoors rather than letting them outside. Not only is it much safer and healthier for them to be away from predators like coyotes and parasites like ticks and fleas, it’s better for the environment. In a study from 2012, some scientists estimated that domestic cats kill billions of birds and mammals annually. “We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually” (source). Cats kill so many animals that some of them have even gone extinct because if it. Because they are an invasive species and have caused some species to go extinct and its healthier to keep them inside for their safety, you should keep your cats inside for the good of the cats and save the environment.
In your writing space, try out these activities:
     1. Write a general comment focused on lower-order concerns
     2. Write a specific comment focused on lower-order concerns
     3. Write a general comment focused on higher-order concerns
     4. Finally, write 2–3 specific comments focused on higher-order concerns
Respond in a few sentences: how did your perspective change through four different comment types, and which approach made you feel the most intellectually or emotionally engaged with the sample?
Activity #5: Self-Evaluation

Think back to your past experiences as a peer reviewer.  Did you focus mainly on higher-order or lower-order concerns? Did you typically provide general or specific feedback? Compare your typical peer review comment to the numbered descriptions in the table "Categories for Evaluating Comments" below.
Categories for Evaluating Comments
     1. Higher-order & Specific
     2. Higher-order & General
     3. Lower-order & Specific
     4. Lower-order & General
Select the number that you think best describes your approach to peer review comments in the past. In your writing space, record the number, its description, and a brief explanation about why you chose this rating.
Cool-Down (5 minutes)
Cooling down after exercise is equally as important as warming up beforehand; similarly, taking a moment to reflect in writing at the end of classes and study sessions helps solidify your learning, shifting key information into long-term memory and improving your outcomes.
Spend about 5 minutes writing a response to the following prompt:
Reflect on your learning in this session. What are your biggest takeaways from the material? How have these concepts helped you rethink peer review? How will you approach your next peer review as a result of your learning in this session?
Reflection & Discussion
Write a brief “letter” to your peer review partners telling them a little about your writing process. Describe how you usually feel when you share work with others and receive feedback. Using key concepts and your takeaways from this learning session, explain how you would like them to approach and respond to your writing throughout this course.
Further Reading & Teaching Resources
See the Instructor Guide for learning outcomes, teaching tips, recommended follow-up activities, scholarly context, further reading, and works cited.

Created by Tim Becker, Julia Feerrar, and Yemi Awotayo. Contributions by Chloe Robertson, Kayla McNabb, Katlyn Griffin, and Lisa Becksford. This learning session was funded by a Pathways Development Grant awarded by Pathways: General Education at Virginia Tech and created in partnership between the Virginia Tech Composition Program, Digital Literacy Initiative, and Technology-Enhanced Learning and Online Strategies.