Peer editing

1. Come to class with one copy of your essay (typed, double spaced) for each of the people in your group including you (usually three, sometimes four).

2. Get into your groups at the start of class and go to a quiet place to work.

3. Appoint one person to act as time-keeper and group leader. The time keeper figures out how much time you have for each paper and cuts off discussion when time is up.

4. Each person reads his paper out loud while the others listen and read along. Do not interrupt. Wait until the whole paper has been read to share your thoughts. When giving feedback, try to phrase criticisms as questions: "Could you elaborate on this?" rather than "This is unclear."

5. When the class is over please leave one copy of your paper with Mr. Jordan. Students will be assessed for participation in peer editing based on the following: Did they arrive at the start of the period with the requisite number of copies? Did they get into their groups and get right down to business without wasting time? Did they share the time equally, or, if they ran out of time did they schedule a time when they could get together with their editing group to finish the job? Did they produce a complete draft for the session? Just a couple of paragraphs or an outline is not enough.

If you are late or arrive without your paper you will be marked absent.

The following discussion of feedback is adapted from Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff, Sharing and Responding (Random House, 1989), 62-69.

The Two Paradoxes of Responding

The reader is always right; the writer is always right. The reader gets to decide what's true about her reaction. It makes no sense to quarrel with the reader about what's happening to her as she reads your paper. The writer gets to decide what to do about the feedback you get. You don't have to follow her advice. Just listen openly—swallow it all.

The writer must be in charge; the writer must sit back quietly too. It's your writing. Don't be passive and let them give you any feedback. You need to decide what kind of feedback you need for this particular piece of writing (see the types of feedback listed below). Don't be afraid to stop your readers if they start giving you what you don't want. Nevertheless, you mostly have to sit back and just listen. If you are talking a lot, you are probably preventing them from giving you the good feedback they could give. (For example, don't argue if they misunderstand what you wrote. Their misunderstanding is valuable. You need to understand their misunderstanding better in order to figure out whether you need to make any changes.)

Types of feedback (before you begin, assign your peers one of the following tasks, or a different task you may choose):

1. Descriptive responding. Ask the readers to summarize your essay. "What do you hear as my main point or idea and the subsidiary ones?" Use this to find out whether your ideas are getting through.

2. Analytical responding. Ask readers what they see as your main point and sub-points and the arguments or evidence you give or could give to support each. Ask them to identify your assumptions—what does the paper seem to take for granted?

3. Criterion-based responding. Ask: Does the essay address the assignment, question, or task? Assess the ideas; details or examples; reasoning. Is the writing clear? Is it well organized with paragraphs that have a main idea that advances the essay's central idea? Is the essay persuasive? Of course you can specify whatever criteria you think is right for a given piece of writing.

Things you will get out of this process

1. Reading your paper out loud in front of others makes you more sensitive to passages that are unclear or otherwise problematic.

2. Reading other peoples' papers, especially ones that disagree with yours, might make you aware of holes in your own argument. Did this other person consider evidence you ignored? Is that evidence maybe more important than you thought (it may not be; no paper addresses every relevant piece of evidence; we all need to be selective)?

3. If you are lucky, you will get some helpful feedback from at least one of the people in your group.