Peer Review

In short: 

Peer review is the practice of assigning students to read or view each other’s work and offer feedback. Peer review can take place in class, either in small groups or with a small seminar (often moderated by an instructor), or in groups or partners outside of class, for instance through Canvas. A number of assignment types can be used in peer review, including analytical papers, research or project proposals, posters, blog posts, podcasts, and creative work in various media. 

Goals: Why use peer review?

  • Empirical studies report benefits to skills, knowledge, and sense of community in a range of courses, from first year writing to STEM.
  • Peer review can foster the revision process, allowing students to implement feedback and revisit and develop their thinking and writing over time.
  • Students can gain self-reflection skills and appreciation for the value of peer’s perspectives, negotiating different meanings.
  • Instructors have also expanded the meaning of peer review to define student-centered class discussions as a form of peer review.


Key Considerations

  • Be explicit about your learning objectives. How do your goals for peer review fit into the learning goals of the class overall? Clarifying your goals for yourself and your students will help you shape the activity and help students to offer clear and useful feedback to each other.
  • Consider privacy settings on feedback. Would you like all students to see each other’s feedback, or just the writer and instructor to view feedback from peers? This question will help determine which digital tool might be best.
  • Choose a peer review structure to meet your goals. Consider whether you will conduct peer reviews in or outside of class, and with small groups, partners, or with the class as a whole.


Review involves Benefits Drawbacks
Whole class, in class Models the process and kind of feedback you expect; creates class community Takes up class time
Small groups, in class Creates accountability and trust amongst students; encourages sustained commitment to each other’s work; offers immediate instructor input and check-ins on groups Variation amongst groups: some groups may work together better than others
Out of class work Frees up class time; enables follow up activities in class Students may struggle to follow guidance without immediate support
  • Model peer review. If you do not hold the sessions in class, you might model peer review in class at least once. For instance, you might ask everyone to read a shared essay and lead a class discussion about its strengths and points of growth.
  • Make guidelines and assessment explicit. Specify what kind of feedback you expect your students to give: line comments? A general summative comment? A letter to their peers? Encourage students to give specific, action-oriented, respectful feedback. Also specify for your students how you will grade peer reviews: will you check them off as completed or give specific points and feedback?
  • Create consistency across peer reviews and your own feedback. Consider establishing consistency for stability, usefulness, and trustworthiness. For example, invite students to use the same or similar evaluation guidelines and rubrics as you are using, or consider collaboratively designing these guidelines or a rubric for peer reviews with your students.
  • Encourage accountability partnerships. If doing multiple assignments, consider whether to assign new groups each time or maintain consistent groupings. Creating more consistency in small groups or pairs can allow students to build relationships with each other, although some shifting over the semester can be helpful to mix up groups that aren’t working.
  • Students can be skeptical about value: Creating consistent expectations and explicit learning goals can help to mitigate student doubt.
  • Students may offer unsubstantial feedback: Modeling peer review and creating a peer review rubric can help to demonstrate the kinds of feedback you expect and how to offer it.


Digital Tools

There are many peer review tools, but they all work in slightly different ways. Your goals and preferred structure will guide you to choose the best tool for your purposes.

  • Canvas Peer Review. Canvas Assignments can be set up to facilitate peer review. Only the writer and instructor can see peers’ comments. Rubrics can be included. Timing is important; if a writer does not submit their work by the deadline, it won’t get to the reviewer.
  • Canvas Discussions is a more flexible, but more public option. Students (in groups or for the whole class) post their work in a discussion forum; peer reviewers can post responses in a threaded discussion.
  • Google docs: Creating a shared folder for each peer review assignment means that all responses can be in one place, and accessible to everyone. A shared folder can be linked to a Canvas page or module.
  • Hypothesis: This is useful for individual assignments in which faculty want all comments to appear as annotations in one place. An instructor can add a students’ work as a Hypothesis assignment in Canvas and students can go to their Canvas sites to annotate.



Updated 8/22/21