Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Peer Evaluation

To wrap up my unintentional "series" of posts on sharing one's work, today I thought I'd post the questionnaire I give to my Creative Writing students on the day they're to exchange their work with someone else in the class. We do this three times a semester, for a small grade. Because I don't want a peer evaluation being a free-for-all (and because I need something substantial to grade), I give them this form (below).

I also tell the students that ultimately, when sharing their work, THEY are the one who decide what to take and what to leave, when it comes to someone's critique. I tell them not to feel pressured or obligated to incorporate someone else's changes. Because if they do that, the changes won't ring true - they'll feel forced.

So, I tell students to take each comment, positive and negative, and toss it around in their mind a bit - ask themselves if THEY agree with their reader-partner. If they don't, they should shrug it off and listen to their gut. But, if they do agree, they should be humble enough to accept that the person was right, that they might need to change a few things. Because ultimately, it's the work itself that's the most important. The writer's goal is to do everything in his/her power to make it the very best it can be. So, here's the form (many other questions could be asked, but due to time constraints, I decided to narrow it down to these):

Name of Reviewer: _________________________
Name of Writer: _________________________

Directions: Read the student’s chapter TWICE - the first time, read it at a normal pace, and the second time, slow down and read it very carefully. Keep these evaluation questions in mind as you read the second time. Then, fill out this form honestly but sensitively. Offer any necessary advice and help in a constructive way.

1. Is the opening paragraph interesting? Does it make you want to read further?

2. Did the writer use any dialogue? If so, was it effective? Did it feel "natural"?

3. By the end of the chapter, is there at least the hint of an upcoming conflict given?

4. Is the plot (thus far) convincing? If so, why? If not, what might be the reason?

5. Does the chapter have smooth pacing? Are there places in the story that are slowed down by too much dialogue, description, or exposition?

6. Are there any spots that contain too much "telling" and not enough "showing?" What would you suggest for these areas?

7. Does the chapter contain the correct format? (Are indents used with each paragraph? Is the chapter double-spaced? Does the dialogue have correct punctuation and correct paragraph format?)

8. Is the writing smooth and free from cliches, wordiness, passive voice, too many run-ons, etc?

9. What are the strengths of this chapter? What did you like best about it?