Review and Response

Writing teachers often make use of a system whereby students write comments on one another’s papers, with those comments intended to help the student revise her writing. It’s a labor-saving pedagogical device, but when implemented carefully, it works well: students get a sense of how audiences read and respond to their writing, and revise accordingly. There is a name for this system.

Scholars who wish to share their insights make use of a system whereby their peers read and evaluate those insights and deem them worthy or unworthy for publication, and offer comments on those insights, with those comments intended to help the scholar revise her writing. It’s a labor-intensive academic practice, but our hope is that it keeps us honest: scholars revise, and only the best scholarship gets published.

While these two systems are similar, they are separate, and serve separate functions. However, there is a frequent tendency in our pedagogical and theoretical discourse to refer to both as “peer review.” I’d like to counter that tendency, because it too easily and conveniently elides the status differential between student writing and scholarly writing, and that status differential is something I’d like to see called into question. Mariolina Salvatori and Amy Robillard, among others, have already done substantial and significant work to make visible and problematize that status differential.

I think we need a more precise vocabulary that extends the work of Salvatori and Robillard and foregrounds the differences between those two systems in order to call into question that status differential. For that reason, I’d like to call our classroom work, wherein students read and respond to one anothers’ papers, “peer response,” and I’d like to call our scholarly work, wherein we review one anothers’ work for publication, “peer review.”

And I’d like to be a part of a conversation that discusses how we might productively blur those two terms.

Review and Response

5 thoughts on “Review and Response

  • August 6, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    This is mildly tangential, but I highly suggest this article: “Writing and Reviewing as Sadomasochistic Rituals” by Daniel C. Feldman in Journal of Management, Vol. 31, Iss. 3, June 2005, pp 325-329. It should be indexed in Business Full Text, Business Source Elite, and Sage Publications.

    As you might expect, it is funny. I’ve actually given it to my students to read as we sort out our frustrations and anxieties about group workshops, and they seem to enjoy it. And, as an added bonus, they can see that some professors have the same complaints about their peers as students have with one another.

  • August 7, 2007 at 3:53 am

    is it available on line? any links?

  • August 7, 2007 at 10:43 am

    I was able to download this via my university’s library. Thanks for the idea; if nothing else, it ought to be amusing….

  • August 7, 2007 at 11:40 am

    I downloaded a copy via my university’s library, too. I can send you a pdf if you don’t have access to it. You can contact me at harmoniasnecklace[at]gmail[dot]com – with the proper punctuation inserted, of course:-)

  • August 7, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks, k8 — it’s funny; I just got done reading Gordon Harvey’s ADE Bulletin piece on “Repetitive Strain: The Injuries of Responding to Student Writing,” and his early piece in the 1997 Profession, “Asking for It: Imagining the Role of Student Writing.” I know he’s going for a bit of a wryly humorous tone in both pieces, but I’ll be blunt: I don’t much like the way that tone communicates a disdain for students and their work in both pieces, and the persona Harvey communicates to me — at least in part — is that of the MLAer who condescends to deal with composition’s hoi polloi. Still, in the later half of “Repetitive Strain” Harvey does his best to work against that tendency and acknowledge some important truths about how teachers interact with student writing, and there’s much of value in what he says — but the persona he’s already set up leaves me with little interest in that value.

    I’ll look forward with interest to reading the Feldman article.

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