Monday, May 16, 2016

Peer Editing: When You Don't Know What You Don't Know



A few weeks ago, as my students were heavily working on sample analysis, writing, and peer analysis in preparation for our AP English exam, I was listening to an episode of This American Life.  The topic was “In Defense of Ignorance."  One of the acts focused on what is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a cognitive bias that says that someone with low skills frequently mistakenly over-evaluates themselves in certain areas (which is basically all of us at some time).  Conversely, people with high skills frequently under-evaluate themselves because they assume they can't be that much stronger than everyone else.

This made me think about how my students were doing in their peer- and self-evaluations.  Peer editing circles, for example, are sometimes only as effective as the peers’ ability to provide reliable, valuable, specific, skills-based feedback.  Each year my students focus on using rubric skills to give this feedback to their peers.  As the year comes to a close and we look at more AP holistic scoring guide anchor papers, I ask them to put a 1-9 score on the top of the peer’s page, so each student will have 3 scores.  I then ask them to score their own paper: either by circling the score they agree with or by disagreeing with their peers and writing their own scores.  I also ask them to resolve among their group any essay for which a score differs by more than 2 points, asking them to return to the anchor papers as their guide.

But that got me thinking: there will always be those of us who don’t know what we don’t know.  In this setting, in addition to what we already do, how can we refine our instruction or provide different experiences to help all students more accurately self-assess and then take clear steps to improve, reflecting upon how and why they did so, so they can write a better paper next time.  I know, million dollar teacher question, right?

As it turns out, when you’re in the CollabLab, these are things your peers either jump in to help discuss with you, or, in this case, were already working through as well!  In the next couple of days we share Quinn’s pen-and-paper take on it in Biology and Mark Heintz’s digital ideas via Schoology

Please share any ideas you have in how to have students be better at self-assessing their skill ability level!

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