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Possible Concerns About Student Peer Review

Students' Concerns
Students may not feel they can be candid in classroom peer review because of the risk of alienating classmates. Similarly, their views of the critiques they receive may be based on the social status of the student making the comments rather than the merit of the reviews. The anonymity possible with EI's web-based peer review enables students to provide constructive criticism without worrying about potential social embarrassment.

Students also may worry about whether it is fair to be evaluated by someone who is not a teacher. If this happens, you can point out that they will be graded not on the reviews they receive, but on the thoughfulness of their responses to these reviews.

Students who are more accustomed to competition than to collaborative learning are likely to worry about plagiarism when asked to share their work. Once they overcome this barrier, students may discover that they can learn from each other in a process through which everyone benefits.

Teachers' Concerns
For teachers, a common concern about student peer review is that students are unlikely to have sufficient knowledge to provide meaningful critiques of other students' work. In EI, we try to minimize this constraint by having students review research that is similar to projects they themselves have carried out. For example, students who have performed lettuce seed bioassays using NaCl should be able to provide meaningful critiques of similar experiments using a different compound or a different range of concentrations. In evaluating other students' research reports, students are likely to gain insights about choices they have made in their own experiments.

Inevitably, some students will receive peer reviews that are not substantive and helpful. A classroom discussion about this problem can be used to point out that this can occur in "real" scientific review as well, but that overall the peer review system does help scientists to improve their work.

Plagiarism is another possible concern for teachers. If students have access to completed research reports, either in the classroom or on the web, how can the teacher be sure that students will carry out their own work rather than simply copying someone else's? This concern is more valid with traditional "cookbook" lab reports than with reports of open-ended student research. In the case of EI student research, the student provides evidence of original work at each stage of the research process, from designing the experiment through presenting the results. Although it would be possible for a student to copy someone else's final results, this would be meaningless because the previous steps in the research process would be missing.

Peer Review Guidelines for Teachers

Peer Review Home


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