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The 2009 ASHS Annual Conference

The Power of Peer Reviewing to Enhance Writing In Horticulture

Monday, July 27, 2009: 8:30 AM
Laclede (Millennium Hotel St. Louis)
Neil Anderson, Ph.D., Horticultural Science, Univ of Minnesota, St Paul, MN
Pamela Flash, Ph.D., Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing, Univ of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Writing assignments in horticulture classes, particularly complex ones involving multiple rounds of editing and revision, may be enhanced with the aid of a peer review process. A mandatory peer review process was formulated and instituted in a Writing Intensive (WI) course, Greenhouse Management (Hort 3002W; University of Minnesota), and tested over 5 years (2003-2007; N=156 students) to determine its effectiveness in improving student writing. A 3-phase WI assignment, designed as a bank loan application to establish a 50,000 ft2 year-round greenhouse operation, had in-class peer review sessions. Phases I and II of the writing assignments were anonymously peer-reviewed by two students and graded by the instructor/teaching assistant. A peer review critique form was developed for peer reviews, which included specific methods of editing the assignments, answering essay questions, and quantitative scoring answers to relevant questions. The class then met in laboratory groups to conduct review panels, presenting their critiques to each author on writing improvement and proposal strengthening. Each subsequent phase of the project had to include a memorandum explaining how the panel’s suggested changes had been addressed. Student’s quantitative data from the peer review process were statistically compared with their numeric scores assigned by the instructors to assess whether the process enhanced student writing and, subsequently, their course grades. Student writing, particularly for new or inexperienced writers in the profession, was enhanced by input from the peer review panel. A significant amount of network learning also occurred, enabling enhanced quality for each phase of the assignment. There were significant differences between years, Phases I and II, and students for most numeric reviewing scores. In general, across all classes and years, there was a significant improvement in writing ability as the writing assignment advanced. Student grades and peer reviewing scores were positively and significantly correlated for Phase I, but rarely for Phase II peer reviews, indicating that writing was enhanced with the peer review process.
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