In his graduate seminars, Brian assigns a single long essay (media criticism) due four weeks before the end of the term. At that point, students bring three copies to class. Brian takes one copy and two peer reviewers take the other copies. Students have one week to complete their peer review (as does Brian) to return commentary to the writer. Specifically, each reviewer
summarizes the paper's argument,
notes the most compelling elements of the text,
notes what needs to be strengthened, and
completes a line-by-line edit for grammatical errors.
As he notes, "The best reviews identify weaknesses and suggest how to fix them with at least one strategy." All reviewers write about two pages of overview commentary to help the writer stay focused on the most important points to revise. Students then sort through the editorial reviews to decide what to revise, and they submit a final revision in the last week of the term. At that point, Brian focuses his comments on where to send the paper for presentation or publication with a few suggestions for revision.
His philosophy of commenting emphasizes that students need to make choices as authors. He believes that talking about writing as a process rather than an outcome is most useful for students. He also works hard to get students to see writing as critical thinking that evolves, and, as such, writing is revised multiple times.
He also notes that students see the value of reviewing because it helps them strengthen their own writing.