Use Rubric Rationale to Improve Student Performance on Peer Review Assignment

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Research shows that students perform better when the rubric provided by an instructor is deconstructed for them (Jones 2017). This allows the students to see not only how they are going to be graded, but why they are going to be graded that way. The ideas for the evaluation categories on the rubric came from Writing Studies researcher Richard Straub’s ideas on peer review. He explains that students should be professional when commenting on peer’s work. In his article “Responding—Really Responding—to Other Student’s Writing,” he writes, “Try to sound like someone who’s a reader, who’s helpful, and who’s collegial. Supportive. And remember: Even when you’re tough and demanding you can still be supportive” (Straub 2005).

Instructors can use this information about peer review and rubric rationale in many different courses. While explaining the rubric rationale, it should be noted that students will have to write and provide feedback on other’s writing long after they finish their required composition classes. (In business or engineering classes this strategy might be especially useful when students are asked to perform on teams and evaluate each other). Explicitly addressing the utility of peer review in other classes and in the future workplace helps students to see value in the assignment.

Link to example artifact(s)

In Composition I and Composition II classes, Professor Pinkerton generally talks to the students about effective peer review. In the upcoming semester, Pinkerton wanted to do more than talk to them about peer review; she wanted to provide the students with explicit information that they could reference outside of class. After thinking about transparency in peer review for multiple semesters, and (based on personal experience), Pinkerton found that students appreciate knowing why they are writing an assignment in a certain way. Following this logic, students would appreciate a clear rationale behind how and why the rubric was created—why certain categories were given more weight than others. While teaching ENC 1101 as part of the Global Achievement Academy last summer, Pinkerton found that being transparent and explicit was helpful for multilingual writers who came from different school cultures and had different school experiences.

Inspiration for this strategy also came from teaching sections of ENC 1101 to domestic students who have diverse peer review experiences. Being explicit about the types of comments that are appropriate for peer review helped the students to take each other’s work seriously, which led to more relevant and thoughtful revision.

How to Use the Rubric

Rubric for Peer Review

Get Started Peer Review

Link to Scholarly Reference(s)

Jones, L., Bill, A., Peter, D., & Lesley, B. (2017). Demystifying the rubric: A five-step pedagogy to improve student understanding and utilisation of marking criteria. Higher Education Research & Development, 36 (1), 129-142..

Straub, R. (2005). Responding–really responding–to other students’ writing. In E. Wardle & D. Downs (Eds.), Writing about writing (3rd ed.). (pp. 44-54). Boston, New York: Bedford St. Martin’s.



Pinkerton, A. (2017). Use rubric rationale to improve student performance on peer review assignment. In B. Chen, A. deNoyelles, & A. Albrecht (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

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