National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Honors in Practice, Volume 7. Copyright 2011 National Collegiate Honors Council


The term “peer review” often elicits a negative response from teachers and students alike. The process involves numerous challenges; anyone who has used the technique knows that students often feel awkward giving feedback to their peers and even more uncomfortable accepting the advice of peers in a classroom setting. They hesitate to voice negatives about performance, possibly because they doubt their own reaction to the material presented or fear that, in retaliation, they will be rated poorly as well. In addition, when teachers fail to establish and communicate clearly defined expectations, student authors do not produce high-quality drafts, and student reviewers often believe that even a lackluster analysis should result in a high grade on the assignment. However, once students understand that peer review is a necessary component of the professional environments they will soon join, are trained in the use of peer evaluation, and accept the potential benefits of well-constructed reviews by others at their ability level, their individual performances improve on compositions, speeches, projects, and original research papers. They also become better listeners and editors, are more supportive of others’ endeavors, and become more confident about their own work. These benefits are perhaps most visible in the honors classroom, where smaller class sizes allow for closer, more detailed interactions between student groups and where students can demonstrate and improve on their high-level skills of critical thinking and analysis by learning to evaluate the work of others. With some preparation for the process and some experimentation in its implementation, teachers in every discipline can provide a supportive and positive learning experience using this helpful feedback technique. In this article, teachers of honors courses in the humanities disciplines of English, speech, art history, and history at South Dakota State University hope to show that—in addition to reducing faculty workload (Stowell)—using innovative and carefully crafted peer review procedures creates a win-win situation for every student involved in the process as both author and reviewer.