Use a range of different perspectives for the review tasks


This principle is about giving students practice in reviewing from different disciplinary perspectives, from different perspectives that might exist within a discipline, from the perspective of different stakeholders and audiences if it is written text as well as from a holistic and analytic perspective. Designers of peer review will have to decide what is important but the main point is that if students are able to see different perspectives on a topic they will have a better understanding of the topic and their own productions will improve. In the context of writing, by taking different reader perspectives while reviewing, students 'may develop a more precise understanding of how readers would interpret their writing' (Cho and Cho, 2011). When experts review work they rarely comment on what is right and wrong as happens in higher education; rather they provide alternative perspectives on the work which as most writers will know can be quite powerful, liberating and inspiring as it is often difficult to break out of one's own mindset.

Peer review is about developing the students' capacity to make evaluative judgements about the quality of their own and others' work and through this to build new knowledge and understanding. To do this students should have many opportunities to evaluate work from the perspective from which it was produced but also from reference points and perspectives different from which it was produced. If students take different perspectives during reviewing this will open up new possibilities and new knowledge in the mind of the reviewer as well as for those receiving the reviews. It will also bring into play and make explicit the tacit knowledge or criteria that experts use when they produce reviews.  Indeed, being able to see work from a range of different perspectives and points of view is a defining feature of the expert who has a highly structured and inter-connected knowledge base. In part, this principle is about the nature of the criteria for reviewing so it is related to the ideas under principle 2 ('Give practice in the formulation and use of criteria') and these two principles might be considered together.

From the above, it is clear that the possible perspectives for reviewing are broad.  One purpose might be to help students develop their ability to think holistically not just analytically. Experts and teachers frequently make holistic judgements about work and performances and rationalise those judgements with analytic commentaries. This kind of configurational judgement can be be seen when expert chess players look at a partly finished game - they can tell immediately the 'state of play'. This occurs because expert chess players see patterns or configurations on the board that are familiar to those they have seen before and they do not have to make individual decisions about each individual chess piece; nor do they add up these individual decisions to arrive at an overall judgement. This kind of pattern recognition is an ability that all professionals possess. Yet, Sadler (2010), argues that, in college and university, students do not gain enough practice in making such holistic judgements and in providing reasons for them.  There are however many ways of addressing this issue. For example, students might be asked to summarise the work produced by peers, to identify hidden assumptions in that work and comment on them, to evaluate the work from a new perspective from that which it was written and to comment on it, to identify the centre of gravity in a piece of writing and to say why this is the case or the most compelling argument or most convincing evidence with reasons for these selections. All these approaches ask students to view the work as a whole.

A second purpose of reviewing is to develop disciplinary skills and understanding and in many courses even inter-disciplinary thinking. From a disciplinary perspective it is not enough to just ask students to evaluate whether the peer work is good or weak and how it might be improved. The criteria for reviewing should be directly related to the disciplinary skills that are to be developed.  For example, students might make judgements about the relative merits of different design decisions engineering, about the soundness of a diagnosis in medicine, about the most elegant solution in mathematics or about the validity of decision-making in social work or business.  Those working in the disciplines are best placed to decide the range of perspectives from which students might be asked to produce a review and provide a reasoned explanation for it. Taking an inter-disciplinary perspective will be an obvious extension in many disciplines - in forensic science students might look at the evidence from a scientific perspective, from a legal perspective etc.

A third purpose of reviewing is to develop the students ability to see other's work from a range of other stakeholder perspectives.  

Putting it into practice 

  • Disciplinary perspective: have students comment on the quality of disciplinary thinking in the assignment (e.g. on the quality of the diagnosis in medicine, of the design or structure in engineering, of decision-making in in social work or business or on the elegance of the solution in mathematics.
  • Holistic thinking: ask students to produce written commentaries referring to the work as a whole, for example, to summarise the main argument, to state the hidden assumptions, to identify and comment on what is the centre of gravity in a piece of work - giving reasons for their responses.
  • Stakeholder perspective: ask students to review the work from a specific stakeholder perspective (e.g. in nursing this might be from the perspective of the nurse, the physician, the hospital manager, the patient)
  • Reader-response: ask students to provide a descriptive and non-judgemental response (e.g. to say what the text made them think as they read it, to identify what the writer almost said that could be made more explicit, or to identify the voice they hear in the text)
  • Writing quality: ask students to comment on the clarity of the writing. its structure, the persuasiveness of the argument etc.
  • Graduate attributes: bring into play relevant attributes, for example, by asking students to review the work from an ethical perspective, an inter-disciplinary or cross-cultural perspective.
  • Contrastive: have students comment on the assignment from a perspective quite different from that which guided its production (e.g. from a different theoretical position or stakeholder perspective)
  • Drawing on the above, require that students, individually, in pairs or in groups define the perspective for the review themselves, before or after the review task.