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Student Peer Review

Peer Review General Principles

Peer review is a process by which students are asked to look at other students' work and provide feedback. While most commonly used for writing assignments, peer review can be used for any project or assignment where feedback would help students improve their work, such as student presentations, graphic design projects, software programming code projects, research studies, lab notebooks, infographics, videos or other media. Small groups can also provide peer review feedback to other groups. Through the peer review process, students learn more about the assignment topic itself by seeing other students' approaches and perspectives during peer review. Students also learn how to provide constructive feedback and how to incorporate feedback into their own work—skills they will need throughout their academic career and in the workforce.

Assigning peer review means all students get feedback before submitting a final version for a grade. This is a major benefit of using peer review, since depending on your class size, it may be difficult to provide comprehensive feedback on each student's work before they submit a final version. Using a rubric improves the consistency of feedback and guides students to look for specific criteria (e.g., required information, formatting, proper citation to prevent plagiarism) or to answer specific questions (e.g., Does the work answer the assignment prompt?).

Facilitating Peer Review

Preparing for Peer Review
  • Create a rubric to guide the peer review process. Provide the same rubric that you will use to assess the final submissions.
  • Create a peer review timeline with deadlines for first draft, peer review, and final draft after revisions. As peer review can take more time, you may want to reserve it for more difficult or complex assignments, where it is easier for students to make mistakes, omit information, etc.
  • Identify any technologies that might help with some or all aspects of the peer review process, including but not limited to:
    • Tools with in-line comments and/or tracked changes (e.g., Microsoft Office, Google apps): for documents, spreadsheets and presentations, features such as tracked changes and comments can be used for feedback.
    • Apps: If your class uses iPads, consider using the iAnnotate app, which allows you and your students to highlight passages in a document and leave voice or text comments.
    • Peer review tools: Calibrated Peer Review is a web-based tool created by UCLA.
    • Plagiarism prevention tools: Some plagiarism tools have peer review capabilities, such as Turnitin's PeerMark system.
    • Discussion forums
    • ePortfolios: Students can post drafts, receive feedback via comments or drafts with tracked changes, post final drafts for grading, and write reflective statements about how their work changed based on the feedback.
Engaging Students
  • Go through the peer review process with the students before asking them to do it.
  • Model evaluating an exemplar in front of students (in-class) or create a screencast outlining your ratings for the exemplar and why you gave those ratings.
  • Consider using a rubric and/or calibrated peer review strategies to further improve the results.
  • Calibrated Peer Review (in-class, online or both): First, create a rubric that students will use for peer review and you will use to evaluate students' final work. Then, share that rubric with your students and discuss it with them. Have them use the rubric—in-class or as an assignment—to review a dummy assignment that you create or an assignment you have permission to use from a previous term. Next, use polling strategies (e.g., raise hands, clickers, Twitter) or an online tool (e.g., Google forms) to learn what ratings students gave to the exemplar assignments. Last, share your own ratings and comments and ask students why they rated more harshly and more leniently than you did. Come to an agreement as a class on a fair rating for each criterion. This exercise is designed to make the peer review process more consistent, regardless of who reviews a particular student's assignment.

Additional Resources

Colorado State University. What is peer review and how do I use it?

Jamsen, K. (2014). Making peer review work

Pearce, J.; Mulder, R. & Baik, C. (2009). Involving students in peer review: Case studies and practical strategies for university teaching. Melbourne, Australia: Centre for the Study of Higher Education - University of Melbourne.


Page author:
Dr. Kevin Kelly, Lecturer at San Francisco State University

Last updated:
August 5, 2020