Peer Review

Canvas provides a system for students to review each other’s assignments.  It makes use of the same tools for detailed online annotation available through Speedgrader.  Instructors can assign students by name to review each other’s work, or have reviews randomly distributed with a single click.  This randomization process can be set up ahead of time, so it happens automatically after all original assignments have been submitted.  An instructor can tell which reviews have been completed from the Peer Review area of the assignment, and click to view them.

Use Cases

Evaluating others’ texts based on the standards they should be using as well can help students deepen their knowledge of how to apply them.  Instructors can compare work submitted for Peer Review with final versions submitted for grading, and get a fuller sense of how students respond to feedback.  This might work in a number of settings, for example:

  • Students undertaking multi-step assignments such as extended research projects submit a draft for Peer Review.  Reviewers comment on quality and use of sources, general structure, and strength or weakness of argument.
  • Students in writing classes regularly critique each other’s work, commenting on grammar and syntax as well as rhetorical technique.
  • Students in Teacher Education classes can practice grading in an environment where instructors can easily review their work.

Peer Review Best Practices

Adapted from

Prepare students for the process:

  • Students will need clear guidance about the tasks involved.  Consider providing a link to these Sample Peer Review Guidelines or developing something similar.
  • Students may be hesitant to find fault with a peer’s writing, and clear instructions for critique can help them overcome this hesitation.   Consider providing a rubric to guide them.
  • The Peer Review area can be confusing to students unless they know precisely how to navigate.  The Peer Review instructions can clarify the process, and is worth discussing ahead of time.

Determine what your role will be in the process: Will you also grade the assignment submitted for peer review? Or is this a step in the writing process and you will grade only the final submission?

Awarding credit for the peer review activity: There is no way to directly assess the reviewer, so create a second assignment with no submission and explain that points will be awarded for completion of peer review.  Make it a Complete/Incomplete assignment for easy grading.

Important Cautions:

  • The date for automatically assigning randomized peer reviews must fall after the due date for the assignment (the default setting must be changed, if only to fifteen minutes later).
  • Until the availability period for the assignment ends, both the original author and the reviewer can resubmit a file that will overwrite the original.  To prevent this, end the availability period at the due date.
  • If Peer Review is used for Group Assignments, the random assigning of reviews does not take group membership into account (so students might be assigned to review others either in or out of their groups).