A dominant concern on the blog this week seems to be the precarious balance between teacher authority and student autonomy, as Eric notes. Is peer review necessarily a tug-of-war? Gere (per Ching) sees a dichotomization between self-sponsored groups and interfering teachers. How can we adopt an approach that is constructive and productive, ceding some amount of authority to the students without creating an awkward situation (Alexa)?
Iemanja makes an important observation about the lens through which students view the work of their peers. If students focus on reception (critical analysis) rather than correction (tending toward the mechanical), the peer review process could become much more beneficial of an activity. What, then, is the role of the instructor when students conduct peer review in small groups? For her part, Heather emphasizes a cooperative dimension, reinforcing a constructive notion of teamwork. Karen finds that her students tend to clam up when she approaches, expecting her to take the reins. We seem to be voicing overall uneasiness about how to position the students vis-à-vis each other and the instructor. What causes this anxiety – our own ambivalence over authority, a lack of trust in the students to judiciously execute peer reviews on their own, other factors? How can we alleviate this anxiety?
Alexa and Heather also bring up the matter of asserting dominance when giving feedback. When is it appropriate to take a firm stance on the quality of student work or subjective choices made by the writer? Iemanja suggests reminding recalcitrant students of the classroom’s collaborative nature, “redirecting” their energy rather than “correcting” certain behaviors. Is the authority of the instructor based on this tacit mandate to fashion/foster a community among strangers? Are we compelled to intervene at critical junctures to uphold this ideal?
How can we measure instructor efficacy and that of the peer review? My regular workshops involve the entire class reading and commenting on a few of their peer’s works. Karen notes that this collective activity might be more helpful for the students than working in small groups. What is the benefit of working in small groups/teams? Could we flatten the space for conversation like Heather says and allow students to receive, negotiate, elicit, rather than correct and confront? In this way, the students might be able to share our burden (Ching). But again, does this threaten our authority?