Peer Unresponse

I am increasingly using this blog as a place where I can document my thoughts about teaching writing–and the ways in which it is taught.

I am writing books about (mis)teaching writing–and using some of what I have written here as frames for what I write. But perhaps more importantly, I use others emails/thought to me as a way for me to rethink how we might more productively teach writing. One of my friends has been thinking carefully about peer response structure.

Hi, XXXXXXX
I’m writing a book, part of which will refer to peer response issues. I want to collect what my students have written about what they learn by unfocused peer response. These comments come in their portfolios—not really a response to a question, but they have remarked about what they learn by reading how others have written and then using those “other” essays to reframe what they have written or what they might have written.
I haven’t fully theorized this, but I have an idea. Constructed peer response (I’m culpable here) might to the students seem forced (duh). The real learning occurs not from what others say about what you have written but from your reading what others have written and using their texts as a mirror that reflects on your writing.

Maybe you see through others how you are seen. I haven’t figured this out, but here’s a try: the paradigm of peer response, while working in some situations, might be forced in our traditional peer response strategies (I think I wrote an article about this in about 1975). Maybe we’re forcing a professional paradigm onto non-professional rhetorical situations. At any rate, I have collected student comments on what they have learned simply by reading how others have written; that’s different than learning from others telling you how you should write.

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