Facilitating Collaborative Peer Review of Student Writing Using Google Docs

A short video describing this teaching strategy can be seen here.

Brandon Respress, School of Nursing, instructs upperlevel undergraduates in the writing of grant proposals in preparation for independent research projects with faculty mentors. Each week, students draft or revise a section of a standard NIH grant proposal, refining the designs of their individual research projects, as well as their scientific inquiry and disciplinary writing skills. Respress creates a Google Doc collection for each weekly assignment, “chunking” portions of the proposal that require different skill sets and degrees of conceptual mastery.

As students post drafts to each collection, the entire class automatically receives viewing and commenting privileges. Respress and students then use the Google Doc commenting feature to leave substantive, conceptual feedback on each other’s drafts. Respress carefully models and discusses effective feedback practices during the first few weeks of the course online, while continuing to provide weekly feedback during classroom sessions.

The revision history feature in Google Docs can be used to gauge the extent of changes in students’ writing in response to peer feedback. Respress found that students showed increased confidence in their ability to apply 3 research skills and develop proposals. More importantly, this approach affected student confidence about their work and their beliefs, the questions they would ask, and, most importantly, their practice as nurses.
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