Peer Editing, a GOOD Idea?
by Zainab Al Balushy
Peer editing is a major process in academic writing for English as a foreign language. It involves students' taking part editing each other's writing highlighting the strengths and weaknesses in their writing. Peer editing helps build students' sense of identity and provides them with chances to learn from each other and enhance their awareness of their abilities and knowledge alike. The paper discusses this issue showing its importance in the learning process and in the development of students' writing as well. It focuses on different strategies i applying peer editing showing various types of forms used in this technique and evaluates their usage and validity. Some suggestions of steps to be followed and tips for better ways of handling peer editing are provided. It also confers results of a survey conducted on students and teachers regarding their application of peer editing and how helpful they find it in their learning/teaching process.
In the field of English language teaching there exist four basic skill areas namely reading, writing, listening and speaking. Each area plays a significant role in the development of the learners. Writing is a major skill area and is considered a productive skill. Donald H. Graves (1994) provides some factors that state the importance of writing in the sense that it contributes to intelligence by requiring analysis and synthesis of information. It also develops initiative, by requiring that the student supply everything him/herself and develops courage, by requiring that the student give up anonymity. Writing also increases the student's personal knowledge and self- esteem and encourages learning in all subject areas, by employing auditory, visual, and kinesthetic systems all at once. Most importantly, writing contributes significantly to improvement in reading skills, vocabulary application, and therefore speaking ability. Peer editing is a step in the writing process that helps students evaluate and improve the quality of their written work in so many ways.
What is peer editing?
Peer editing/editing is the processes through which students respond to and provide feedback on their peers' writing highlighting the positive and the negative aspects in a way to help each other reach better written products. The peer editor does not correct the paper's mistakes, but helps the writer fix their own mistakes by showing the area of the error and therefore making it clearer for the writer. That is because it is easier to spot another person's mistakes than it is to spot your own and it always helps to show your writing to be looked at by another person. It is worth mentioning that the process of peer editing does not replace the teacher's evaluation nor underestimate its value. It is a step between peers in a way to avoid submitting a full-of-mistakes paper.
Benefits of peer editing
Peer editing allows students to share ideas regarding the topics of their writing, the different styles and structures and the editing methods and techniques, Myra L. Karegianes. It also creates an atmosphere of cooperation and enthusiasm among students. They feel equal in one situation where they are helping each other to produce better results. In this regard, peer editing plays an important role in developing students' independence and raising their self esteem and confidence in their abilities. In addition, peer editing enhances students' responsibility by allocating them a role similar to the teacher's to spot mistakes and help fix them. Students in this case benefit by identifying strengths and weaknesses in their own writing as well as their peers'. The process of looking at each others' piece of writing reinforces their editing skills and makes them aware of such criteria the next time they write. They read with a critical eye which helps them develop their critical thinking skills and improve their writing skills by being exposed to different writing types.
As for the benefits of peer editing on teachers' part, it decreases the amount of their paperwork. Instead of marking whole class papers of first drafts, teachers will look at the papers after they have been reviewed by the students' peers, so some of the mistakes would have been fixed. This will give the teacher the chance to spot higher level mistakes that could also indicate the areas that need working out with the whole class. The teacher could also be observant as to praise strong editors who will eventually become highly appreciated by their peers. Their highlighted thoroughness and attention to detail will become qualities of positive competition in the classroom. The other students will seek the same as to become good writers and editors and hence will have their work completed more often. While they may have excuses for a teacher, they are less likely to give (or accept) them with their peers.
The process involved in peer editing increases student' autonomy and self-directed improvement as a life-long skill. They will seek that in all aspects of their learning as they gain rewards of their corrected products. This will also increase their overall fluency and similarly improve their reading comprehension because students learn more when they personally apply principles without being forced by higher authorities. They also learn how to give and receive constructive criticism and they begin to recognize the importance of process: outlining, drafting, and redrafting, rather than cranking everything out at once.
At the end they will notice that their work product is indeed improved, and their understanding of the legal issues is greater. They will learn to write a draft of their paper before the final deadline, emphasizing the writing process as ongoing and evolving. The process therefore motivates students to ask the teacher useful questions about their assignment besides receiving social and emotional support as they share problems and attempt to come up with solutions for themselves and their peers. It will prepare them for the future since peer editing is a skill highly desired by employers and one that is used in higher education. It also widens their information scope because they hear other students' viewpoints and questions on issues they might not have deemed or thoroughly comprehended.
Peer editing steps
Before starting the process of peer editing, students should have written a first draft on a certain topic and before submitting it to the teacher they undertake peer editing. There are some certain steps a teacher should follow and some issues to keep in mind, Kathleen Magone (1996):
1) Choose the peers.
Peers could be members of two students, three students or four students working together on their papers. That could be determined by the teacher depending on the size of the class and the seating style of the students besides the gender variations that exist in the class. Another point to be taken account of is whether the teachers choose the peers or they let students choose for themselves. This should be decided upon earlier so that it does not waste the class time nor cause any dissatisfaction among the students.
2) Let the students exchange papers
After settling down the specific peers there are two ways to distribute papers among students. One way is to mix all the papers and then allocate them randomly so that students get a chance to move around and meet their peers to discuss their feedback. The other way is to let students exchange each others' papers within their groups. This will depend on the number of students and the percentage of males/females variations.
3) Tell them to use the rubric sheets you provided
Students should be provided with specific guidelines for the editing process through which they can focus their editing of each others' papers. Editing symbols should also be well known to students so that they apply them adequately. The feedback form should address the content as well as the accuracy of the written work.
4) Ask them to put their own names on the papers they are to edit
That is to give them sense of appreciation and support their self esteem. It will enhance their confidence and make them feel responsible of the task they are assigned. It will of course ease the process of knowing who peered up with whom to be able to meet later and discuss.
5) Give the students time to read through the essay
You should stress that students take it seriously and read through the whole essay before spotting the mistakes to give them a better understanding of what is written.
6) Editors underline the mistakes and write the editing symbols above
The second round involves scanning the essay and finding the mistakes. They should not fix any mistakes but only underline them and write the editing symbols on top of the words. This will give the writers a hint of the kind of mistake and make it easy for them to fix it later.
7) After finishing, students get their papers back
Again depending on the distribution method, have students get their papers back from their peers. Let them move around, change their seating, or even join new groups.
8) Based on the feedback they receive, have the student writers correct their own papers
Now that writers have their papers along with feedback forms, they should start fixing their mistakes using the hints provided through the editing symbols and the notes and comments in the feedback forms.
9) While correcting their mistakes, they should consult the editor for clarification
In some cases, students might not be clear about some comments or suggestions and in such a case they should consult their editor.
10) Remind them to negotiate their mistakes with the editor and
It is not guaranteed though that all the peer's suggestions are correct. In so many cases the writer is correct and the editor makes a mistake. So, writers should discuss their viewpoints on the mistakes they are not convinced with.
11) Let them use dictionaries and class notes while correcting their mistakes.
To assist students fix their mistakes, a dictionary and a grammar book plus the study notes are the best companions. They can always go back to their editors and check the possible way of editing or even ask other students in their groups to give them a hand.
Areas of suggestions
• Title should address the topic
• Thesis statement should be well structured and specific
• Organization should be in the form of separate paragraphs
• Details or explanations should support the topic providing examples where applicable
• Topic sentences should be focused and specific
• Relevant information should be included in all paragraphs
• Word choice should involve risk taking
• Connectors have to be used thoroughly and correctly
• Capitalization should be used where necessary
• Subject-verb agreement is a vital aspect that could be neglected sometimes
• Spelling mistakes should be fixed and not repeated
• Singular/plural nouns should be correctly used
• Word formation should be applied correctly
• Missing punctuation should be noticed
• Incomplete or run-on sentences should be highlighted
• Articles should vary according to the sentences
• Prepositions should be used correctly
1) Do you like to peer edit?
a) Yes 85
• It helps me recognize my mistakes
• I avoid those mistakes the next time
• To share ideas with my partner
• I can notice my own mistakes
• I practice to notice the mistakes
• Students feel confident when they check each others' mistakes
• Students can see their level in writing and how much they know in grammar
• It makes us feel like we are teachers
• It prepares us for higher levels
• It provides chances for communication with peers
• We get an experience in editing
• I remember my mistakes
• I get help to fix my mistakes
• We get more ideas about the topic
• We encounter various thinking ways
• We become more sociable
• We learn new information
• I like it when someone tells me my mistakes
• It builds strong relationships
• It allows us to correct our mistakes before the teacher sees them
• It helps me improve my writing, reading, vocabulary, grammar and spelling
• We get to know the differences between each other
• It makes me try to improve
• It creates competition between us
• We exchange information
• We learn the things we should focus on
• We know others' mistakes
• It helps us to edit our writing in exams
• It helps us to get good marks
• It helps the writers know their weaknesses
• It feels good to help others
• We get to know the formal criteria for writing
• It helps me submit a better essay to my teacher
• It helps us to think about sentence structures
• I will learn how to find out my own mistakes
• We are the same age, we feel comfortable
• I trust that my friend will find my mistakes and help me correct them
• Learn new information
c) No 15
d) Why not?
• I don't like other students to know my mistakes
• The editing could be wrong
• The teacher will not know my exact level in writing and hence will not help me
• Students sometimes have the same mistakes
• It is better done by the teacher
• We are all in the same level
• It sometimes makes me confused
• It takes a long time
• They sometimes mark new words as mistakes just because they are new to them
• It makes you feel board
• Students have the same mind, so they can not notice mistakes
• Some students feel shy and embarrassed
• It is a hard work
• My partner does not have a lot of experience
• I don't trust other students
• I sometimes know more than my partner, so I do not benefit
• I do not want people to copy my way of writing
• Sometimes the editor makes you change an idea that you like
• They do not find all my mistakes
2) Do you trust the editor?
a) Yes 80
• I know that he can help me
• We like each other
• I know that his level is higher than mine
• They are responsible to find the mistakes so they will do their best
• I choose my editor
• He is my friend
• Because he will also benefit
• He will find my mistakes to challenge me
• I know he will be honest
c) No 20
d) Why not?
• They make a lot of mistakes
• They do not know how to check my work
• I know that my writing is correct
• Sometimes they will pretend mistakes
• They are students like us
• Sometimes editors do not want someone to better than they are
• They can make mistakes in my writing if they are at a lower level than mine
• Maybe he does not like me
• They have a different way of thinking
• They do not understand what I mean
• They are students not teachers
• They do not care about my writing
• They feel reluctant to tell me my mistakes
• They think I will not like them any more
3) What do you learn from peer editing?
• Different kinds of mistakes
• New vocabulary items
• Some grammar rules
• Correct way of writing
• Being careful not to make a lot of mistakes
• Our spelling weak points
• Working with others
• How to find our mistakes
• The correct spelling
• The correct grammar rules
• Short forms of some words and phrases
• Dealing with mistakes
• Fixing mistakes
• How to write without mistakes
• Respecting others' opinions
• Checking our mistakes in a grammar book
• Correct use of dictionary
• Focusing while writing
• Not doing the same mistakes again
• To study hard and be quiet in class
• Learning from my partner's mistakes
• The skill of editing
• Using paraphrasing
• How to organize our essays
• To figure out our weaknesses in writing
• Learning responsibility
• No one is perfect
• How the teacher corrects our mistakes
• Not being shy when others find our mistakes
• Sharing our ideas
• How to write good essays
• Making new friends
• New information
• People's opinions about my work
• Producing a lot in a short time
• Not to trust everyone's opinions
• New sentence structures
• Respecting each other
• Making good discussions
• How to manage our time
• To pay more attention when I write
• Synonyms and antonyms and different versions of words
• Finding my own mistakes by myself the next time
• Reasons behind our mistakes
• The different kinds of mistakes students make
• How to work in a group
• How easy it is to make mistakes
• Being honest to people
4) How often do you want to do it?
a) Once per assignment 66
c) Once per semester 27
c) Never 7
5) Would you prefer to choose your editor?
a) Yes 77
• I choose someone I know their level
• I know the good editors in the class
• They have good writing skills
• I will choose a higher level editor than my level
• Best editor means best editing
• I learn more things from the good editor
• I will choose a person I trust will tell me my mistakes
• I will choose the one who will help me get good marks for my writing
• I will choose someone I know and understand
• I will choose one who knows my skills
• I will choose an optimistic editor
• I will choose an honest and serious editor
• I will choose someone who likes me
• Because he will improve my work
• My best friend will help me more than others
• A good editor will influence me to be a good writer
c) No 26
d) Why not?
• Not everybody knows how to edit
• Some editors are better than other ones
• Some students are not confident enough
• Some students do not want anyone to be as good as they are or better than them
• Choosing the person makes me very nervous about my mistakes
• I do not want the same editor all the time
• You learn a lot of things from different editors
• It is better to be in different experiences
• It does not matter with me
• If the editor is not my friend, he will be serious
• It is better not to know the editor until they finish the editing
• You might choose someone to cover your mistakes and not tell you about them
• The student who does not know me will help me more
• We are all the same level and we make the same mistakes
• It could hurt other students' feelings if I do not choose them
• To maintain the trust and the positive feelings among the classmates
• Any student can see my mistakes
• Because all the students are my friends
• I do not know the level of my classmates
• He might be nice to me because I chose him and feel shy to show me my mistakes
• The assignment will be marked by the teacher at the end
1) Do you use peer editing with your students?
a) Yes 25
• It gives students a chance to practice their skills, discuss problems in context and check grammar.
• It shows them what other students are doing.
• Good for week students if paired with strong ones
• It helps students be more cautious of what they learn.
• It fosters autonomous learning
• It helps establish good rapport among students
• It raises awareness of students' own work
• Team work cooperation
• They share ideas
• It gives them the chance to proof reed
• By looking at other students' errors, they realize that their own work also needs attention
• It helps them to notice ambiguity
• It allows for painless spelling check
• Differences in students' opinions may lead to better learning
• Students feel happy doing it
• It is a requirement in the program
• It helps them to focus on target language items.
• It creates a relaxed learning environment
• It raises students' awareness as readers
• It re-assesses and re-formulates students work
• Students give each other tips on how to improve their writing.
• It is exciting for students
• Students learn from others' mistakes
• It can save class time
• It encourages students' ability to spot errors
• It is easier to find others' mistakes
c) No 15
d) Why not?
• Most students are not able to do it well
• It is mainly the teachers' responsibility
• Many students make wrong editings
• It could sometimes be too boring, too slow
• It requires too much teacher modeling
• It is the blind leading the blind.
• It wastes time
• It wasn't very successful when I tried it.
• Only a minority of students seamed to tale to it
• If students' level is very low, they wouldn't be able to do it.
2) Do you trust the students to edit?
a) Yes 10
• At times, students can see and explain things in a better way than the teacher
• The teacher will not always be there
• It helps teachers' identify students' problems
• It shows the teachers if the students are serious and accountable
• It tells the teacher how much the student editor knows
• There is always background knowledge that the other students may lack
• It helps teachers prepare for future language/grammar points
c) No 20
d) Why not?
• We do not have enough time to do it
• The students are not perfect in English
• It is unreliable
• Sometimes students are happier with a teacher-fronted class
3) What do you think students learn from each others' peer editing?
• How to plan a writing piece
• Various structure types
• New vocabulary
• Correct spellings
• New ideas
• It helps them not to do the same mistakes themselves
• They get an idea of the common errors
• Exposure to organization skills
• They share their general knowledge
• Some accept their peers' ideas for change
• It shows them how easy it is to make errors
• It tells them that they must think before they write
• They learn that translations from Arabic do not work
• They rehearse what they already learnt
• It shows them the effects of cooperation
• They get to know the good students in class
• It allows for competition between students
• They pay attention to their content
• They hear themselves on paper
• They review the classroom discussion and the textbook together
• It is reflective/reflexive
4) How often do you apply peer editing?
a) Once per assignment 20
b) Once per semester 5
c) Never 5
5) Do you give students the freedom to choose their editing peers?
a) Yes 12
• They need to feel comfortable with whom they work
• It is easier if they pair up with their neighbor
• They feel less embarrassed if their mistakes are spotted by their friends
• They are more likely to provide honest feedback
• It allows for more flexibility
• More peer-communication involved
c) No 18
d) Why not?
• Gender separation hurts grouping strong students with weak ones
• They need to look at a variety of styles
• Weak students may not find any mistakes on strong students' papers
• Students may choose an editor of the same level
It appears from the findings that students and teachers alike consider the process of peer editing and realize its importance. They depend on it to improve the written work besides learning many other things that contribute to students' self development. Teachers need to keep certain criteria in mind like paying attention to the size of the student groups; pairs, triads, or groups of four and five, whether they will assign the students to groups or let them self-select, whether students will work within the same group the entire semester or change for each assignment and the tools they give their students. The feedback form should be thorough and inclusive of all aspects of editing. Students can use it to improve their written piece and therefore produce better in the future assignments.
Kathleen Magone, The Law Teacher, Volume 4, number 1 (Fall 1996), p. 11.
Donald H. Graves, "Balance the Basics: Let Them Write," a 1980 Report to the Ford Foundation
Myra L. Karegianes, The Effects of Peer Editing on the Writing Proficiency of Low-Achieving Tenth Grade Students, Juarez High School, Chicago School Board.
Donald H. Graves, (1994), A Fresh Look at Writing, Heinemann.
|Zainab Al Bulushy is a Senior Language Instructor at the Language Centre, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman. She has been teaching English since 1998. She holds a Master degree in English for Specific Purposes from University of Warwick, UK. She is interested in the areas of linguistics, students' needs and motivation
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