But if the essay argument is unclear or undeveloped, or the paper “through-line” – the flow of the argument – is unclear, the whole paper is shot.
How can you harness the power of peer review to get a paper’s “through-line” set before students take a swing at a first draft?
1. Give students an outline of the paper.
2. Ask students to write a thesis, supporting point 1, and supporting point 2 section, each with one piece of textual support.
3. Put them in groups of 3 or 4. I suggest Mr. Mater’s amazing Super Grouper for randomizing.
4. Give them 20 minutes to review the 3-4 outline(s). If the logic is unclear, they must clarify. If the supporting point is invalid, they must find a better one.
6. Before sending them off, explain that the group gets the grade of the weakest outline. Teach about the value of peer-mentoring, and the idea of win-win collaboration.
7. After class, grade each outline. If the paper will be worth 100, grade the outline as a separate 10 point assignment. This will not damage anyone’s grade, but will incentivize careful peer review.
8. The next day, you can give them a chance to fix any member of their group’s outline to lift the collective grade!
Better Outlines + Peer Review = Better Papers and Better Learning!