UNH Teaching Notes
Calibrated Peer Review
In 2000 Professor Chris Bauer of the UNH Chemistry Department returned from a workshop at UCLA with information about a new program designed to help faculty use writing in larger classes without unduly burdening themselves with enormous grading loads. Like many UNH faculty, Chris had learned from the Writing Across the Curriculum movement that frequent and varied kinds of writing assignments would help students not only become better writers, but better learners of his subject matter as well. The software-based program he learned about at UCLA--Calibrated Peer Review--is now used in large sections of General Chemistry (approximately 700 students per year). It is also attracting attention outside Chemistry and outside the sciences, as it has at more than 400 institutions across the country. The overview which follows was provided by Laurie Langdon, a UNH Chemistry postdoctoral student. It provides contact information for anyone who wants to talk to a CPR user, a link to the CPR WEB site, and a white paper providing more details of its application.
Calibrated Peer Review (CPR) ™ is a Web-based program that facilitates frequent writing opportunities in courses of any size and within any discipline. It was developed at UCLA through funding provided by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Assignments—taken from the server library or written by instructors—emphasize both “learning to write” and “writing to learn.” Students learn about new ideas and synthesize information when they express what they know in writing. They also practice general writing skills as they learn how to communicate effectively within a discipline. However, writing is only one piece of a CPR assignment; students also engage in peer review.
How does a CPR assignment work?
Each assignment has three steps: students write an essay (Stage 1), learn to review and perform reviews of other student work (Stage 2), and reflect on the reviews their work receives. Assignments in CPR are structured as outlined here:
- In Stage 1, students write and submit one-half to one page of work (about 100-300 words) that responds to the writing prompt.
- In Stage 2, students learn to review and then review their peers' essays and their own essay. First, students evaluate three standard essays until they agree reasonably with the instructor's evaluations (calibration). Then, students review the work of three of their classmates, and their work is reviewed by three others. This is all anonymous. Finally, students review their own work.
- After Stage 2 ends, students can inspect assignment results, including reviews of their work completed by other students. Students' overall grades for the assignment (100 points total) are based on their writing and reviewing performance.
How can I make this work for me?
CPR assignments have a lot of flexibility. All you need is a clear purpose, a good writing prompt, and time to write good review questions and calibration essays. You can add resources, such as links to websites or documents. You can use the program to collect students' current thinking on a topic (by ending the assignment after the writing stage), write review questions that emphasize your objectives (content or style or both), and adjust the level of reviewing proficiency students must meet.
You can also use existing assignments, some of which have been peer-reviewed, from the CPR or UNH assignment libraries.
There are many ways to connect CPR assignments to classroom activities. Use the writing prompt as a discussion tool, allowing students to talk about and plan their writing before the assignment begins. Pause the assignment after the writing stage and use one of the calibration essays and accompanying review questions to discuss the evaluation process before students complete the calibration and review stage. Use CPR as a way for students to receive peer feedback on a “first draft,” with opportunities to revise their writing prior to submitting a final paper. In short, CPR is a tool that allows you to focus on writing, peer review, and concept learning in ways that integrate with other curricular components.
For more information
Instructors interested in using CPR must contact their university's administrator to set up instructor and student accounts. Then instructors may set up and run assignments for their courses. The UNH administrator is Dr. Christopher Bauer in the Chemistry Department (firstname.lastname@example.org ; 603-862-3619). Feel free to contact Chris regarding CPR training workshops, setting up CPR for your course, or other questions. He (or one of his colleagues) will gladly reply.
Here is the link to the CPR website: http://cpr.molsci.ucla.edu .
Click here for a PDF version of a white paper on Calibrated Peer Review