|Although it is always helpful to connect a comment to the specific paragraph or sentence to which it refers, there just isn't enough room to adequately explain some responses in the small spaces of paper margins. Reviewers using the traditional method of pen and paper should get in the habit of developing some kind of means of referencing the pieces of a text that they are commenting about. An easy way to do this is to simply number the sentences in each paragraph and then number each paragraph. That way, a reviewer can clearly indicate, for example, that "sentence four in paragraph three" needs more support or explanation.
In answering peer review questions using pen and paper, reviewers need to be very specific. It is not enough to tell a writer that there are areas of a paper that are confusing. The reader must point out exactly which parts of the text do not make sense. This can be done in a number of ways (e.g., by circling every word or phrase that seems unclear). The key is to use one consistent method of notation. Sometimes teachers will provide students with instructions as to how all class members are to note problem areas of their review partner's drafts. If no instructions are given about ways to make notations, then the reviewer and writer should come to an agreement as to how each will make notations on the other's draft. Circling every unclear word or phrase is only helpful if the writer knows what the circles mean.
|By using Exchange, reviewers may escape many of the logistical challenges of conducting effective peer reviews. Students engage in the review by clicking another student's draft as listed under headings like "reviews to complete." Once the draft appears on the screen, the reviewer will see other boxes surrounding the text. When he or she clicks on an area of the draft that needs a comment, a chat-like or instant messenger-like box appears. The reviewer can decide if a comment should be connected to a word, sentence, paragraph, or the entire draft. Once comments are entered, they become visible to the reviewer and later to the writer via a reading pane located immediately next to the original draft. Carrots (small graphic pointers) and highlighting help communicate to the student what specific areas of the text relate to the comments provided. Once a draft has been reviewed and the responses finally posted, comments cannot be edited or deleted. See sample review of a first draft in Example 1. Notice the different colored text in the reviewing pane on the right side of the draft.|
|There are a couple of useful things to note about the way Exchange connects comments to specific items in the paper. First, notice the small triangle after the word "progressive?" It is colored a solid blue to match the color assigned to the reviewer named, "Townsend." The location of the triangle indicates the specific area of the paper to which that reviewer is responding. In commenting on the writer's thesis, Townsend has attached his comment to what he believes is the author's thesis sentence. When the writer logs on to see the reviews left for her paper, she can be sure about what comment applies to which part of the text by hovering her mouse over each comment as in the example to the right. Notice how the entire sentence is highlighted in Example 2.|
Looking more closely at the comments left for Lauren in Example 3.
Notice the comments left by Scott.
Townsend’s comment may be helpful, but he does not explain why he thinks the thesis should be more factual. Perry offers positive feedback, but she does not offer any suggestions or strategies for improving the message of the paper. As this was a rough draft, it is unlikely that there is no room for revision.
Now look at Scott’s comments. Her first comment addresses a specific sentence and offers a suggestion that would help her understanding of Lauren’s ideas. Scott’s second comment refers to an entire paragraph that caused her to feel alienated as a reader. Notice the way she connects her advice to a key strategy – establishing common ground.
See the text to which Scott’s comments connect in Example 4.
click link to enlarge
Example 5 illustrates a more developed draft peer review.
click link to enlarge
Again, notice the comments left by these two reviewers on the developed draft in Example 6.
Notice the similarity in the advice offered in the first two comments. Both concern the introductory paragraph and both are pointing to similar suggestions for revision.
The second comment left by Townsend offers a suggestion, but the typo in the last sentence makes this comment confusing. He should have taken more time to review his comment before posting it. That is one of the disadvantages to providing feedback using a computer. Typing can be done much faster, sometimes without thinking; as a result, mistakes can happen if writers, and in this case reviewers, don’t take the time to proofread their texts.
Chicoine’s second comment offers valuable feedback about the need for more support via referenced material. This is exactly the kind of help that any reader can provide; one does not have to be knowledgeable about the topic of a paper in order to give quality feedback.
Finally, notice Townsend’s third comment. While he does offer specific positive support, his comments might have been more constructive if he would have explained what was good about the way the paper addressed the positive and negative social impacts of the topic and why he thought the paper was well organized.
|See the section on negotiating content for other important things to remember about responding to student writing online.|