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Getting started with peer review on the Personal Statement Assignment

by Steve Krause on September 16th, 2014

Let me first start with a bit of a pep-talk:

Chances are, you have done some form of peer review in other writing classes. Basically, peer review is the process of having your writing reviewed and commented on by your classmates, the idea being that everyone in the class– and not just the teacher!— is capable of offering effective and valuable advice. Generally, I think peer review works well, but there are two problems with it that have always frustrated me.

First, I think that peer reviewers are generally uncomfortable providing honest and real feedback to their peers, in part because I think that most people are just trying to be nice to their classmates. And I guess that’s a good thing– I mean, I’d rather students be too nice and polite to each other than too mean and rude. Second, I think that a lot of times peer reviewers don’t put in as much effort into the process as they should. In other words, instead of taking the time to provide valuable feedback, I think a lot of reviewers take the easy way out and say something like “Great! I wouldn’t change a thing.”

One of the things that’s interesting about this is that as the writer being critiqued, students tend to have different reactions to that of being the reviewer. So, while as a reviewer students tend to be too nice and not as thorough as they should be, as a writer, students usually wish they had received more honest and detailed feedback.

These are some problems we’ll be working on with our various peer review exercises this semester, and I also want to introduce here at the outset that peer review is something that takes practice: that is, the last peer review we do this semester will certainly be better than this first one. But we all have to start someplace.

Okay, the details of this first peer review after the break:


I’ve divided everyone up into the following groups and I’ve set up specific pages for the peer review discussion.  Follow the link for your group! You can look at the others if you really want to, but remember, you need to do the peer review for only the peers in your group.

Group 1: LeeAnne Baumdraher, Sabrina Gissendaner, Ashleigh Swinehart, Angie Souva

Group 2: Allyson Bruske, Chelsea Idzior, Leah Touchstone, Justin Trudell

Group 3: Elyse Cawetzka, Jessica Kane, Melanie Waller, Carly Worldring

Group 4: Latasha Davis, Kourtney Lovett, Natasha Wickenheiser

Group 5:Brian Gardner, Kristen Smith, Nijea Wilson

Follow the link for your group, and before the end of the day on Friday, share a Google doc version of a draft of your Personal Statement. Remember to share them so anyone with a link can edit them! Everyone was successful in setting up Google docs like this a couple of weeks ago, so I know you all can do it. But as always, if you have questions let me know.

You have until Friday to begin peer review! If you have a draft ready to share earlier, by all means share it. But you have to have a version of your Personal Statement up and ready for peer review by the end of the day on Friday. If you are late, I will dock a letter grade from your project.

To get started, everyone should post a comment in your group’s page where you briefly introduce yourself, you explain what your Personal Statement is about (that is, what’s the program you’re hypothetically applying to, etc.) and where you share a links to the Google Doc version of the draft of your Personal Statement and of a draft of your assignment memo.  Remember to share both of these documents and make them so anyone with a link can edit them!

To guide your comments, it’s probably useful to review the assignment again. Remember that your personal statement needs to be based on a real personal statement and that should be clear in the work you share. You want to offer advice and guidance about the effectiveness of the personal statement: that is, does it include specific detail, do you learn something about the writer, does it meet the requirements of that personal statement, etc. Make your comments right on your classmates’ Google Doc.

After you are done with your peer review, I you want to fill out this survey about the process. You should fill this survey out for each of your peers in your group by the end of the day Monday.

This survey serves two basic purposes. First, it helps in giving your peers even more feedback on their draft in a constructive way. Second, it helps me figure out who completed the peer review process as I directed. I’ll share the results of the survey with everyone on Tuesday of next week.

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  1. Allyson Bruske permalink

    The assignment states that we are supposed to write a memo directly to you discussing challenges and etc with this assignment, but you haven’t mentioned this anywhere else. Is this something we are actually supposed to do and i missed where the information is located? Or are we not doing this now?

    • Steve Krause permalink

      You do need to include a memo with this assignment when you hand it in to me. It’s up to you if you want to share that with your peers for the peer review process. It might make sense to do that so that you can get an idea from others what these memos are supposed to look like. On the other hand, because you are also supposed to discuss the peer review process a bit in this memo, it might not make much sense to share it now.

      So for the peer review process, the memo is optional. When you hand the project in to me on September 26, you will need to have a memo with your final and revised essay.

  2. Melanie Waller permalink

    Ok, have patience with me. When I hit the share button on Google doc does this automatically go to my peer group (or anyone else for that matter of fact). I have followed the directions you provided but I don’t know if others have been able to edit my writing

    • Steve Krause permalink

      No, you have to “share,” make sure the permissions are set so that others can edit, copy that link, and then paste that link into the discussion for your group. You can go to your group and see some examples.

      This is also what we talked about at the beginning of the semester when we started talking about Google Docs:

  3. Melanie Waller permalink

    Ok,here’s a revised version to see if I’m getting it and hopefully I opened up the share process
    Hello Group Three. Sorry I’m late and running behind, but (no excuses) I worked a double yesterday and then regular today and I’m so tired and worn out I just want to sleep. Well now that I’ve had my “nap” I’m here and ready to go.

    After that introduction, you are probably all groaning thinking I’m gonna be the slacker, I’m doing my best not to be. Anyway, I’m Melanie Waller, you can call me Mel or Melanie, doesn’t matter and I live in the state of Illinois and I’m also an hour behind you but I will try to not let that interfere. I have worked in food service all my life and so my personal statement will be directed at a company called Caseys General Stores where I would like to apply for district manager or maybe even a corporate manager position.

    So I will need a lot of help in getting this right. Yes, I will edit your papers and I may even question some of what is said, but all due to the fact that I am out of the loop on a lot of new jobs in the market area and so I may be asking questions that will help me to better understand what it is you are applying for. It will probably be the same way for grad school applications. I also have no clue as to what goes on after a bachelor’s degree, so bare with me, I’m just trying to better understand what goes on in life.

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