My students were tasked with reviewing, and commenting on, a research question that had been paired with a tentative thesis statement (the statement, of course, should answer the question). At first, my students were puzzled that all they had to review was a question and a statement. They quickly found that this was MORE than enough for them to analyze. In other words, they learned that it's not quite that simple. They realized that it takes a good bit of time to seriously consider research questions and thesis statements. I encouraged my students to be direct, honest, and fair in their comments. The goal, I emphasized, is to assist--not condemn. They took that advice seriously and showed real concern as to whether or not they were being "mean." A "mean" statement, for some, sounding something like: "This thesis statement does not answer the research question." Really? That's mean? Wow. Hmm. Isn't it pretty to think so. Umm. "No, that's not mean," I told them. "Wait until you see what I wrote on your essays."
We've all done peer reviewing before. It's a staple--like corn. What's new here, I think, is that students are actually interacting with other students--rather than merely scribbling comments and then moving on to the next thing, having forgotten all about John/Jane Doe's paper. Here there's a dialogue. There's responsibility. Read: Response-Ability. And for that reason, there's some amount of trepidation regarding their comments. Which translates, one hopes, to a more thoughtful analysis. Facebook seems to excel in this regard, as students get a "like" or an actual "thank you" or some other sort of acknowledgment. Students know that their "partner" is right there, waiting, watching, ready to read the comment. And respond in kind (but perhaps not kindly).
I'm curious to see how Michelle's students respond. By respond, I mean get their revenge on when they network with my class tomorrow morning. Meanies Unite!!