We’re finally at the revision stage. The participants have looped through prewriting; they’ve taken slow steps through the drafting stage; and now during peer reviews, they are either drowning as beaten-down writers, or resurfacing above all fears as confident authors.
Last Friday was the first time the participants shared their writing in peer response groups. Some groups were so engaged that I couldn’t get them to take a break! But this wasn’t the case for one group in particular. I’ll call them, The Trio.
On Thursday, I assigned participants to their groups, and to help them make the transition, we talked about their fears and hopes around sharing their paragraph assignments. I thought we made good progress. During the discussion, they discovered they shared the same fears as their group mates so they realized that no matter what the perceived level, they all felt nervous. They came to the conclusion that by sharing their drafts, they would be able to improve their writing. Although they were apprehensive, they were also curious to read what their peers wrote, and also looked forward to receiving their support.
But each year that I ask my participants to work in these groups, I share their apprehensive feelings. Am I asking them to do something that they really don’t feel confident doing? Am I asking them to expose themselves when they don’t want to? Do they know enough about paragraph structure to be able to give good feedback?
For example, on Friday The Trio was done in 30 minutes! It usually takes that much time to do a peer review for one person, and here they had already “finished” two reviews. I’m making an assumption based on my observation of these participants throughout the course so far, but it seems to me that they didn’t trust themselves, or the others, to give a helpful review. Either some didn’t want to listen to the others, or some of them didn’t want to share their thoughts because they were ashamed of their ability. In any case, it was a silent group. Perhaps this combination of participants just wasn’t the right match.
When I compare The Trio to the others, I feel a small sense of relief. At least the other groups were right on track; I sensed that they were doing their best to give and receive feedback. I know each time I ask participants to get into peer review groups, there is always a risk that The Trio situation will occur.
So, what am I going to do about it? There isn’t much I can do. If they don’t feel ready to give feedback, or if they don’t feel comfortable in their group, I can’t change that now. The only thing I can do is give them the chance to make it better in the future, in another group. I can help them voice their concerns and help them see where they might want to change themselves.
After all the peer reviews are done tomorrow, I’m going to split the members into new groups, and ask them to discuss these questions:
- How did the peer review group improve your writing?
- How was the peer review group not helpful?
- What would you change about the peer review process the next time you try it?
Once they’ve had the chance to think of their answers, hopefully neither I nor The Trio will feel as apprehensive when peer review time comes up again next session.