Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Peer Review

We all trust peer review journals. We know in the medical community, the peer reviewed journal rules. I began considering what scientists did in their labs for my own classroom. What I learned from the scientist was that if one scientist in a lab can do something and a scientist in another lab can do the same thing, then we have something worth doing. When I started CyberEnglish (CE) in 1993, I was curious if it could be done in other schools. I found that it could be. From that same notion comes peer review. The idea is that people who know as much if not more than me about a topic, review my work and comment on it, ask questions, and help me rework it. What peer review does is to let others know that something is viable and trustworthy.

As I developed CE, I was also emulating scholarship as it was done by PhD candidates. PhD candidates make their work public, engage in peer review, and pass it on. Well for my scholars, the second tenet of scholarship was crucial to justify their webpages. I needed a peer review protocol for this process. I called on my two student teachers to devise a peer review protocol based on their knowledge of peer review and current practice. They were in a Masters program at Teachers College. They came up with a brilliant process: I Heard, I Noticed, I Wondered.

Peer review in and of itself didn't really separate CE from any other class in the school. What really helped separate it and to raise it above other classes was telementoring. Telementoring was simply mentoring but done by people far from the school. We used email to communicate. Many telementors needed a guide, a protocol, to use when evaluating the scholars' webpages. The peer review protocol created by my student teachers became that guide. So we had common language in the class used by the scholars internally and with our external telementors.

In the world of scholarship, we have many examples of peer review. First Monday and Kairos are two such English journals that come to mind. Peer review verifies for the reader that what is being read has been reviewed by qualified readers. the content therefore is good. Teaching these practices in the English classroom is valuable and crucial for all teachers. It provides authenticity and value to what the scholars are doing. It makes it relevant and that is key for the scholars to justify their time in our classrooms and in school. In this form of assessment, the scholars are directly involved. They are on both ends of the assessment process. They are receiving and giving. When we are assessed and know the criteria by which we are being assessed then the assessment works and helps inform the learner about strengths and weaknesses.

In my own work I have found peer review crucial. As I have said, my CyberEnglish class has been peer reviewed by many teachers who have adapted CE in their own classes. So I have passed it on and so have they passed it on. That is the positive affect of peer review. Another time I have found peer review useful was a presentation I did for NCTE convention in Baltimore. It was a tough presentation about the events of 911 within 2 months of the event. Peer review was a crucial part of my developing that presentation. I had some reviewers in the audience and they read their reviews. It was powerful and again showed the positive aspects of peer review.

There are lots of websites that offer great information about peer review. Find some links on my peer review lesson.

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