Reflection: Shared Expectations What's Common Knowledge? And What's the Commonality with Curley's Wife? - Section 3: Building Knowledge


Like every teacher at one time or another, I've grappled with the issue of making peer evaluations meaningful and useful to all students.  I've changed evaluation tools to force students to pay more attention to their peers' work.  I've made the quality of their evaluations a piece of the evaluator's grade... I've done a million things.  As I thought about my practice for peer evaluations, I kept coming back to several main ideas about how peer evaluation typically works.

Issues with Peer Evaluation:

  1. Some (many?) kids don't put in the effort required to read and improve their partner's work.
  2. Typically there are various stages of completion with drafts, so while one partner may only have 3 pages to read, another might have 7.
  3. There's always at least one long-winded student in the room who cranks out 15 pages instead of the 8-10 page requirement.  Even I would struggle to read all that.
  4. It's awkward when students get partners that have substantial learning struggles.  I tend to see partners of these students who capitalize on the opportunity to make red marks all over their paper OR who are so overwhelmed they check out.  Either way, it's not useful.
  5. Not all students possess perfect editorial skills, so some simply don't know how to fix passive voice and can't alert partners to errors in parallelism or other issues.
  6. Students who are strong in grammar (or can pick out egregious errors) often read solely for this purpose rather than content and argumentation structure as well. 
  7. Once evaluated, some students ignore their evaluator's comments entirely.
  8. Even if a student's partner highlights major issues with the paper, there are always students who are overwhelmed with the advice and won't dive deep to correct the issues which make their entire paper flounder.

Even though there are all these issues, the ideal, well-done peer evaluation is SO VITAL to making students better writers, better readers, and better peers!  In light of this fact, I had the idea this year to restructure my typical peer evaluations and move them to the BEGINNING of the process.  I chose to have students complete peer evaluations on the outlines first.  This may sound bizarre, but hear me out!  The material was shorter to read, so students resisted it less.  Additionally, they couldn't just limit their evaluations to superficial grammar issues; they were forced to consider the argument at the heart of the essay.  I saw pairs of students verbally interacting during their peer evaluations to clarify arguments, give more information about the topic, and answer general questions.  This process definitely improved the content and scope of the research papers, and since it all occurred before the research process was finished, they were still able to focus down their research to pull the remaining information their peers suggested!  In short, this reworking of my old peer evaluation process created a more flexible, fun, and meaningful activity for students and ultimately produced better papers!  I will definitely be keeping this activity arrangement next year.

  Making "Peer Evaluation" More Meaningful with ONE Simple Change
  Shared Expectations: Making "Peer Evaluation" More Meaningful with ONE Simple Change
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What's Common Knowledge? And What's the Commonality with Curley's Wife?

Unit 6: Multitasking with Modernism & Research Skills
Lesson 8 of 9

Objective: SWBAT apply definition of "common knowledge" in group activity, evaluate a peer's research outline to improve the structure, and identify how Steinbeck intertwines characters to further theme.

Big Idea: Peer evaluations without a single student groan and class discussion that you have to CUT OFF? You’re not dreaming, it’s just Common Core!

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a woman s guide to man
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