Rhetorical Peer Review

(e.g. will be offering periodic posts on a teaching topic throughout the quarter.  To kick off this new series, Lilly Campbell discusses a peer review activity she has used in classroom.)

Rhetorical Peer Review

Guest post by Lilly Campbell

In this activity, I have students bring in a paper from my class or another class that they are planning to rhetorically analyze for their next assignment. This is usually a short paper (3-5 pages). Prior to this activity, we’ve built up a rhetorical vocabulary to work with (each student has written and shared an extended definition of a rhetorical concept) and we’ve also read “How to Recognize a Poem when you See One,” and discussed the idea of tacit knowledge.

I set this activity up, then, with the goal of helping students to recognize the rhetorical strategies they used in writing a paper that might not have been obvious to them because of their tacit knowledge of writing strategies. What’s useful about a rhetorical peer review, then, is getting an opportunity to hear from another student how their writing has an effect prior to doing a rhetorical analysis of their own work.

We start off class with a discussion of how rhetorical peer review will be different from the other peer reviews we’ve done so far and the goals of this review. Then, I divide students up into pairs and give them 15 minutes to read their peer’s draft and answer questions on the attached worksheet. After that, they have 10 minutes to share their reading experience with their peer. Finally, we end class by going around and each sharing one thing that surprised us about a peer’s experience of our writing – something we were doing without necessarily realizing it. This helps students to hear from their peers about a range of tacit knowledge that affects their writing approaches.

Overall, this activity prepares students to critique their own writing by offering an outsider’s view of their work and also fosters meta-cognition about the rhetorical effects of the writing they produce.

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