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Using the Critical Response Process for Kinder, More Constructive Peer Review in Science Seminar Courses

Journal of College Science Teaching—Fall 2023 (Volume 52, Issue 7)

By Lekelia D. Jenkins

Existing processes for academic peer review can yield unnecessarily harsh critiques that focus on any vulnerability rather than constructive feedback to improve the work. Efforts to improve the peer-review process recommend training at the graduate level. This article describes the Modified Critical Response Process (MCRP) as a means to achieve such training and improve in-class peer review. The MCRP is based on Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (CRP), an art-critique method that helps form constructive dialogues about artworks in progress. I adapted the MCRP for the nature of science products and the time limitations of graduate-level seminar courses. The four-step MCRP process includes (i) focus areas prescribed by presenter and rubric, (ii) clarifying questions asked by responders, (iii) positive comments offered by responders, and (iv) bounded comments given on areas for improvement. Evidence from instructor observations, student evaluations, and teaching peer reviews suggests that the MCRP can be a kinder, more constructive way for students to give and receive peer-review feedback. The MCRP can help students learn, articulate novel scholarly insights, and develop facilitation and teaching skills. The MCRP could readily be applied to seminar courses, lab group meetings, seminar series, or workshops.
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