Schooled: Peer Review
03/04/2011 8 Comments
Nicole Fonsh has raised a discussion at the Hack Library School blog on the subject of peer review in the LIS classroom. Boy, I remember all the fun everyone had sharing papers and absorbing critical comments about their writing. The hot red faces, the nervous hands, the hours of extra reading. Yes sir, like those warm, breezy afternoons of yesteryear in the meadow, I remember those classes with pleasure.
But yesteryear is gone and the two-party practice of assigning papers to be written, submitted for grade, and returned is theoretically geriatric. Studies have shown that multi-age students contextualize and “learn better” when content is shared and interactive.
Several of my library school courses were structured in much the same way as the ones outlined in Nicole’s piece. Email everyone your paper a week in advance of class, read some or all of the peer papers, and be ready for discussion in class. One of these was moderated by John Berry (Library Journal) and was more writing-intensive, while the others were typical LIS courses. Two things I can relate about them:
1. Many LIS students aren’t very good writers and won’t often have much to share in the way of constructive criticism. Therein lies half the dread of peer review. The other half lies with those people, the less-confident writers, who loathe sharing their work with people they presume to be superior thinkers and writers.
2. Although, being a textbook editor, I didn’t usually find these experiences particularly engaging or productive, I know there were many students who were appreciative of the process. Peer review may have shown them ways to improve their writing and the ways they think about intellectual communication.
You can’t always rely on your LIS professors to be expert at judging the quality and content of your written materials. After all, they’re librarians, not Composition instructors. It’s a fortunate student who has the opportunity to share thoughts on library science and receive constructive insight on authorship with a capable peer group.