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Student Peer Review Guidelines for the Classroom

Writing is a social activity, improved through authentic interactions between reader and writer. That’s why peer review—the process of sharing one’s writing with, and receiving feedback from fellow students—can be a game-changer. 

I’ve taught students from middle school to graduate school, and across all ages, I’ve found that learners not only benefit from but enjoy the writing process more when they have opportunities to shift between the roles of writer, reader, and editor, sharing feedback with others that they can then apply, reflexively, to their own work. 

Whether discussing and learning from lived experiences that relate to the topic of a text, or brainstorming problem-solving strategies for untangling a tricky part of the plot, collaboration strengthens all writing—and writers.

Below, I share insights into incorporating peer review in the classroom to support students no matter the genre or assignment they are working on. You'll also find these ideas consolidated into a student peer review guidelines poster and handout you may download and use freely!



Fostering Discovery through Peer Feedback

Because peer review is collaborative—reader and writer working together with the common goal of advancing a piece of writing, and by extension, thinking—it’s inherently a process of inquiry. And through that inquiry, students may find delight and discovery where they once felt stuck.

Regular practice of peer review allows students to reevaluate their work and explore the perspectives of their peers. This process encourages students to "re-see" their words and those of others from new vantage points. And as they engage in this reflective exercise, their writing becomes more refined, the learning process itself becoming dynamic and engaging.


Building Social Learning Opportunities

Peer review also creates a platform for social learning within the writing classroom. The exchange of feedback rooted in storytelling and authentic expression exposes students to diverse perspectives and experiences and galvanizes students’ development of critical social-emotional learning skills (self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and perspective-taking among them).
This immersion scaffolds students’ development of empathy and cultural competency, as well as awareness of their own identity and positionality—skills and capacities that are transferable to a range of work and life contexts.
>> Also read 30+ Creative Writing Prompts for High Schoolers for relevant writing exercises for students.

Empowering Thoughtful Readers and Writers

Effective peer reviewing techniques are not inherent skills; they need to be taught. And as Harvard Professor Nancy Sommers suggests, mentoring students to become thoughtful and critical readers can cultivate a vibrant classroom community, fostering academic and relational learning.

The more students read and engage with each other's work, the more they grow as readers and writers—an evolution and level of connection that one Write the World student speaks to powerfully:

“I realized that giving feedback isn’t about having all the answers, or being ‘talented enough’ to review a good piece; it’s about giving a fellow writer the courage to keep putting themselves out there helping their strength shine through.” 

- Erin, 16, Tasmania, Australia, Community Ambassador at Write the World

Peer review, then, is more than just a tool for skill development; it's a means of building relationships, confidence, and camaraderie.


Alleviating the Burden on Teachers

One of the most significant advantages of incorporating peer review is the relief it offers to teachers. By encouraging students to actively engage in providing constructive feedback to their peers, educators share the workload of assessment.

This collaborative approach enhances the quality of students' final drafts, leading to fewer instructor comments. This is particularly crucial in an educational landscape where time constraints pose challenges—and are the number one roadblock to effective writing instruction reported by Write the World teachers.


Student Guidelines for Effective Peer Feedback

Here are some guidelines you can share with students to help them review other students’ work. Alternatively, you could ask students to co-create guidelines (see some example advice from this student) to further build buy-in.

  • Start with Positivity: Begin by highlighting what works well in the piece. Positive feedback sets a constructive tone while fostering belief in oneself as a writer.
  • Balance is Key: Strive for a balance between pointing out strengths and suggesting areas for improvement. This approach motivates growth while acknowledging the writer's efforts.
  • Get Specific: Offer specific examples and suggestions rather than general comments. This helps the writer pinpoint exactly what needs attention and how to enhance it.
  • Respect Individual Voices: Encourage students to respect each other's writing style and voice. Peer review is about improving without imposing personal preferences.
  • Tone Matters: Emphasize the importance of delivering feedback respectfully and kindly. Constructive criticism should always be framed with empathy and understanding.


Download the PDF version of the Peer Review Guidelines
(Download the print-friendly greyscale version)

By adhering to guidelines that ensure effective feedback, peer review becomes a vehicle for promoting respect, improving literacy, and learning with and from others. And the tools provided—the skills students gain by engaging in the feedback-giving process—will serve them in postsecondary and professional contexts, from coaching a team to conducting a performance review. It all begins in the writing classroom.

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