I have often thought it a shame that the work students produce for final projects, essays and reports is often never shared beyond the individual/group authors and their instructor. Why should great work be confined like this? Why shouldn’t students have a chance to see what their peers are writing? Why not give them an opportunity to reflect on their own efforts as they read the work of others? Surely there is value in this type of collaboration.
Yesterday’s Advanced OB class broke the silence. Final reports for the class are not due for a couple of weeks, but today was dedicated to a rough draft review workshop. During the workshop they shared their work with classmates, gave and received feedback. Here are some of the details:
- Students are preparing a report in groups of 5.
- Each member attended class armed with a printed copy of their report.
- The groups then divided themselves into new groups so that a representative from each authoring group was included.
- They then exchanged papers, edited, made suggestions, sought clarification, and discussed each other’s work.
- With all papers reviewed, and feedback collected, everyone returned to their original authoring groups to compare notes, and set a plan for finalizing their work.
Here is what I had hoped would happen:
- Easy mistakes like spelling and grammar would be identified and corrected.
- A variety of course concepts, integrated into each paper, would be reviewed and discussed in each group.
- The ideas and supporting discussion presented in each paper would be debated to improve the arguments, challenge assumptions and essentially, improve the final work.
- Students uncertain of their work would have an opportunity to reflect as they compare their efforts to others.
So what happened? The class started out very, very quiet. 30 minutes into the activity one student asked, “How do read these things?” Yes, grading papers can be challenging. (Hopefully with this extra review, this batch will be different.) After the outburst, things lightened up and conversations started. Papers ended up filled with comments and corrections.
The real noise started once the groups came back together to discuss their findings. 15 minutes after the reunion I began joining groups to find out what they had learned and to get their feedback on the activity. The groups felt this was a worthwhile activity, and that the feedback they received was helpful. Yes, spelling & grammar were corrected but important issues on the structure and clarity of their arguments were also identified in many groups. I was feeling like this activity might be worth repeating.
However, when given the choice of having another workshop like this one, or making appointments to meet with me to review the paper, they chose the meetings. Hmmm, I wonder why? Any idea?