CAHSS Faculty Articles

Teaching Peer Review of Writing in a Large First-Year Electrical and Computer Engineering Class: A Comparison of Two Methods


0000-0002-7673-8066, 0000-0002-3094-3734

Publication Title

122nd ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Event Date/Location

Seattle, WA



Publication Date



Despite recognition of the importance of communication skills in electrical and computer engineering curricula, instructors are often reluctant or unwilling to include writing assignments in their courses. Furthermore, when these assignments are included they often do not allow for formative assessment through feedback and revision, key components of contemporary writing pedagogies. Engineering instructors often feel they lack adequate expertise to provide feedback; in large classes there simply may not be enough time due to the faculty to student ratio. One way to address these constraints while providing meaningful writing assignments to students is to use peer review in place of instructor review. Still, the question of how to teach effective peer review to students remains. This study uses an experimental approach to compare use of a handout based on the assignment developed collaboratively by course instructors and an expert writing teacher with the addition of an in-class workshop conducted by the writing teacher. Both methods allow for inclusion of formative assessment in the writing process in a large class where instructor feedback would not be possible. The handout-only method benefits from less required class time and institutional support. Student peer review comments were qualitatively categorized using characteristics identified from the composition literature and the mean numbers of comments in each category were compared between groups. Drafts in the in-class instruction group averaged slightly more comments in categories identified from the literature as higher quality comments and fewer in the less important categories. However, in all but one category, the differences between groups were not statistically significant. A follow-up survey was used to gauge student perceptions on various dimensions related to the peer review process. Perceptions were generally more positive in the in-class instruction group, but again the differences were not statistically significant. These results indicate that the handout-only method may be adequate for teaching peer review to first-year electrical and computer engineering students and indicate the need for further research in this area.



Peer Reviewed

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