One of my favorite activities in my beginning business writing class is peer editing. When I first started the activity, I noticed that several students would frequently provide unhelpful feedback such as “I like it” or “It looks good to me.” It’s not that they were being lazy or apathetic. They really did not know how to articulate what was good about a document or what needed improvement.
To help them, I developed a guided peer editing worksheet. The result has been that students give more and better feedback and are more confident peer editors. In addition, because the worksheet is based on the grading rubric, students look at their own work more critically as they revise their drafts for a final grade.
Training them to be peer editors, of course, requires more than the worksheet. For starters, I do expect that the draft represents a good effort, even if that effort is truly misguided—that’s what a draft is for. I also tell students that a peer editor is not a “document fixer.” The peer editor’s job is to raise questions and issues the writer may have not considered. Besides, the peer editor may give bad advice. Students need to know that everything in the final document is the result of the writer’s choices, whether or not those choices are the editor’s as well.
I’ve attached my peer editing worksheet for a negative-news assignment. It is easily adaptable to routine messages, persuasive messages, reports, résumés, and cover letters—really, any document.
Enjoy! If you have peer editing activities that work for you, be sure to share them.