44 Students Should Grade Each Others’ Writing
Usually, when students are completing a writing assignment for a class it is not for the sole purpose of getting their message across. It’s never to spread information or because they are genuinely interested or passionate about what they are writing. Majority of the time, they are writing to serve a grading scale. We have been in school long enough to know what gets you a higher grade on the grading scale, and what to avoid in order to stay away from the lower end of the scale. This results in students concentrating more on staying within the boundaries that they think the rubric is creating, rather than exploring their ideas and way of writing. When teachers grade student writing assignments, they are so used to relying strictly on the boundaries of a grading scale which keeps students from taking risks in their writing out of fear of not executing it correctly, and therefore losing points from the grade they worked so hard for.
Chris Friend, a writing professor at Kean University, put it best when he argued against the idea that student writing should be graded by the teacher by saying “when students write for a grade, they come to see writing as transactional (given to someone in exchange for credit) rather than actionable (created with purpose and designed to achieve a goal)”. Students will never think or write outside of the box when one person is in charge of the fate of their paper because of the risk that it comes with, which has deprived us of some amazing papers written by students. Typically when teachers are grading papers, they are using a rubric or set of criteria to guide them. By grading only based on a specific set of rules and not being open minded towards other ideas or forms of writing, it limits the students because they know they are being graded by that criteria and it leads to unoriginal thoughts or less risk taking in order to preserve their grade and get their credits.
Students are around literary texts all day everyday and have been getting graded for years. We know what sounds good, what needs to be tweaked, and have plenty of ideas that can be shared amongst our peers. Students’ are naturally more open minded when it comes to writing and ideas which makes them a great fit to grade each other’s papers. They keep an open mind to different ideas and forms of writing, while also being aware of the technical and grammatical pieces writing should include since that’s how they were graded by their teachers for a really long time. This is why students reading and grading each other’s writing is imperative to encouraging the creative outlet that these writing assignments could be for students. Students would feel a lot more comfortable writing how they really want to write if they knew that the people who would be reviewing their work would be their own peers. Students have gotten years worth of feedback from teachers to be able to constructively critique their classmates’ work while still giving room for non-traditional writing techniques.
Not only will peer reviewing and peer grading benefit the students who are writing the paper, it will also benefit the ones who are critiquing the writing. Over the years, students have already gathered a lot of the skills and knowledge that they need to be able to grade their peers’ writing. But, by giving them the constant access to their classmates’ papers and allowing them to gain the experience of giving constructive criticism to other peoples writing it could benefit them in the future. A skill like that is essential to have in multiple professions and this is a great way to allow students to nurture and excel at that skill. Whether students are going into teaching, science, counseling or even are just pursuing writing as a career, being able to analyze and critique writing is a great skill to have. But students won’t have that if all of their writing is graded on a strict scale by one person who is in charge of determining whether they did good or not, rather than having feedback from multiple peers who have fresh and new ideas in their head. All of this is not to say that teachers are not necessary in the grading process at all. Teachers also have a lot of experience that is needed in the progression of students as a whole so some comments and small notes on the more technical side of things are definitely necessary. But, the main source of grading and critique should come from the students themselves.
When students write something and get a bad grade, if they get a chance to rewrite it (which isn’t always the case in certain classrooms and that can also contribute to students becoming unmotivated) they are focusing more and becoming more in line with the rubric and how to add points to whatever grade than earned rather than trying to improve the quality of their writing. However, when peers are able to review each other’s work and give feedback students use those comments and discussion with their peers to fuel their ideas and improve the content of their writing which in the end is what is going to help them improve on future projects. Students can benefit each other just as much, if not more, than teachers can.