Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Peer review for students

I recently discovered an education resource that proposes to lessen the time a professor reads papers by creating a system of peer review. Calibrated Peer Review (CPR) was created by Orville L. Chapman, a Professor of Organic Chemistry at UCLA and a member of the National Academy. For future scientists, this seems a wonderful way to gain understanding of the peer-review process and the varied aspects of scholarly communication.

The process follows a four-step process. Students will write an essay or paper. They will then work through some calibration essays to understand how to review the work of others. Next, the students will evaluate their peers, and finally they evaluate their own work. This entire assignment yields a scored result via the program.

In addition, a library of assignments is available through the CPR database. Sample assignments are available at the Web site. Although CPR can be used by any discipline, sample assignments are predominantly in the sciences. This resource may be helpful for professors at Eckerd College who are trying to incorporate writing into classes that do not traditionally use writing. For example, the following assignment was developed for calculus:

Title: Calculus I: Damped Oscillator

Assignment Goals
The goal of this assignment is for students to

* read and understand the verbal description of a physical situation, in particular that of a damped oscillator,
* modify a mathematical model based on physical assumptions,
* explain relationships between representations, in particular between the physical situation, the formula modeling it and its graph,
* articulate mathematical ideas and techniques using appropriate vocabulary,
* read critically and assess the reasonableness of mathematical assertions, and
* evaluate the students' own writing and that of their peers for completeness and correctness.

In addition, professors can build their own assignments. Eckerd College is not signed up for CPR, but it easily could be. Let me know if you are interested.

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