Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Secondary Students' Perceptions of Peer Review of Writing

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Secondary Students' Perceptions of Peer Review of Writing

Article excerpt


Recent research has shown that secondary students have few opportunities to produce extended pieces of writing or participate in classroom activities that help build their understanding of academic writing, even though provision of multiple opportunities to write papers of one page or more has been tied to writing development and college preparedness (Applebee & Langer, 2013). In a recent survey, 10% of grade 8 students and 14% of grade 12 students reported being asked to do no writing as part of their homework for their English language arts classes (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). The limited opportunities to write are reflected in national assessments of academic writing, which report that only 24% of students in grades 8-12 perform at a proficient or advanced level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012).

Teachers often cite the extensive time required to provide detailed feedback to students as a factor in deciding whether to assign more or longer pieces of writing (Applebee & Langer, 2013). Given the number of students most secondary English teachers instruct, providing students with multiple opportunities to write and revise is a considerable challenge.

Peer review, a common instructional approach to writing found in elementary through college classrooms since the 1980s and a key element in "process" approaches to writing, is one potential answer (Atwell, 1987; Hillocks, 1984). During peer review, students rather than teachers provide feedback to other students on their writing. Multiple studies have shown that peer review leads to improvements in students' writing and increased understanding of the expectations and genres of academic writing; thus, it is often hailed as a "best practice" in writing instruction (MacArthur, 2007).

Peer review rose to popularity as a form of writing instruction through the use of writing groups (Ching, 2007). Writing groups started in the early twentieth century, both inside and outside the academy, as places where writers voluntarily shared their writing and provided feedback to other members (Gere, 1987). Instructors began to incorporate writing groups and peer response into K-12 English language arts and college composition classrooms due to the influence of authors such as Atwell (1987), Calkins (1986), Elbow (1973), and Murray (1968). Scholars and educators have often noted the potential of peer review to help students take ownership of their work and develop greater audience awareness as they engage in timely conversations with authentic readers about how to revise (Atwell, 1987; Calkins, 1986; Gere, 1987).

Although peer review has become a widespread approach to writing instruction in kindergarten-through-college settings, little research exists that documents students' views of peer review and their perceptions of the characteristics that make it most challenging or useful for writing development. Other studies of students' perceptions of instructional techniques in ELA have demonstrated that students often experience and interpret classroom activities differently than teachers and researchers assume (Godley & Escher, 2012; Smagorinsky, Daigle, O'Donnell-Allen, & Bynum, 2010). Incorporating students' perspectives on classroom activities can lead to more productive literacy instruction (Scherff & Piazza, 2005) and can help teacher and literacy researchers design activities that foster greater student motivation and learning. Conversely, students' resistance to literacy activities can reduce the effectiveness of these activities. To better understand students' views of peer review, its affordances, and its challenges, we administered a questionnaire to 513 high school students.

Review of the Research

Although it is often hailed as a best practice in writing instruction, peer review in kindergarten through college classrooms is implemented in a variety of ways with different results. …

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