Peer-Review in Intro Philosophy Papers!

I am really happy to report that I will be working with the University of Iowa’s Writing Center to set up a peer-review component of my introduction to philosophy course this spring!

The Writing Center has a Writing Fellows program in which honors students are trained to give feedback on term papers across the curriculum. They then give comments on rough drafts of two longer paper assignments. They do not grade assignments, but only provide feedback and tutoring on the papers.

The program is such that the rough drafts of longer papers are turned in at least two weeks before the final due date. This gives Writing Fellows time to read papers, provide detailed comments, and then meet with students to go over their papers. Then students have a chance to revise their papers before the final drafts in a focused manner with helpful guidance. (To that end, I actually gave students just three weeks from the submission of their rough draft to the submission of the final version.)

Though I will have to judge by the results, I expect that this program will benefits all parties involved—my students, the Writing Fellows, and me as a teacher:

  • This will help my students improve their writing in light of comments and give them the task of writing like I suggest they do—as if they were explaining philosophy to a peer without any philosophy background—by supplying them with such a peer.
  • This program also focuses my students’ attention on the revision process. Good philosophy often takes multiple drafts. This program makes revising earlier writing part of their grade (rather than submitting a paper only to never return to it, which perhaps makes the experience of reading feedback from me, say, less fruitful).
  • This program helps Writing Fellows by giving them more experience giving feedback on peers’ writing—and exposes them to philosophical content, to boot!
  • This program helps me in delivering guidance for paper feedback to others, and in collaborating with undergraduates.
  • This also incentivizes me to design a more detailed paper rubric—which will no doubt assist Writing Fellows in giving helpful feedback, assist my students in understanding what I look for in longer papers, and assist me in grading with more focus.

So this program seems like a win for everyone. I thank my colleagues, Professors Carol Severino (Director) and Megan Knight (Assistant Director), for providing me and other faculty at the University of Iowa, plus our students, with this golden opportunity.

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