ESL: Cross Talk: Peer Review & Writing Workshop

From ESL Instructional Resources by Young-Kyung Min, PhD

Peer review epitomizes the key idea of writing process pedagogy; it plays a crucial role for a student’s growth as a thinker, writer, and reader. Many international students are not familiar with the idea of peer review. In some countries, peer review is regarded as a form of cheating because students are not allowed to show their papers to other students before they submit them to their instructor. Students who are new to peer review often need more guidance on how to engage in a peer review process and what feedback they should offer to their classmates than will students familiar with the process.

There are various models of peer review. The peer review discussed here is not a typical peer review. As the title suggest, it is a peer review that integrates a writing workshop based on students’ sample papers and a mini-lecture.

First, the instructor introduces students to the essential concepts of academic writing—the rhetorical, grammatical, and stylistics aspects of writing—adapted from the Writing Self-Assessment and Writing Center Conference Form available on the Writing & Communication Center website. Students provide comments on each other’s papers using the essential concepts of academic writing during the first peer review.

Second, the instructor guides students in further examining the rhetorical, grammatical, and stylistic aspects of their writing by utilizing student sample papers. The sample paper can be either from the current class or from the previous class. Students evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the essay and compare their own drafts with the sample paper. The instructor can also lead students to focus on certain aspects of writing. For example, if the instructor wants to discuss the source use and synthesis aspects of writing, students should be helped to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the ways the sources are used in their drafts in comparison with the sample paper.

Then, the instructor presents revision strategies and coherence and cohesion strategies that students can use during their revision processes. The instructor asks students to choose the strategies they will use to improve the rhetorical aspects of their paper and the strategies they will use to enhance the grammatical aspects of their writing, before the papers’ submission deadline. Students go back to their drafts and review comments they received from their peer review partners. Lastly, students do “free-writing” about what they learned from the peer review and writing workshop on the day.

This kind of peer review and writing workshop serve multiple purposes. First, it helps students effectively learn the key elements of academic writing and become more active members in a community of writers by doing writing. The discussion about content and writing issues utilizing both the sample paper and lecture can help students strengthen their own arguments and edit their own work more effectively.

Second, this kind of hands-on approach allows the instructor to illustrate the critical thinking and critical writing skills for the specific assignment. It is a good opportunity for the instructor to introduce the concept of “genre” to students and explain guidelines for the genre of the specific assignment. The instructor can integrate a teaching moment into a peer review session by creating a learning environment in which students are more engaged in learning the revision strategies and apply them to their own papers.


Min, Y. K. (work in progress). Teaching ESL students: Guidelines for inclusive pedagogical practices.





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Young-Kyung Min, PhD
Education Program