Overview

Calibrated Peer Review (CPR) melds the pedagogy of ‘writing-across-the-curriculum’ with the process of academic peer review. This web-based, instructional tool can be used in any discipline with any class size. The 10-year track record of the first version (chart of CPR growth) shows CPR adopted in over a thousand institutions, in undergraduate and graduate programs, in professional medical and business schools, and even in secondary schools. Faculty in small private schools through large state universities have integrated CPR assignments in over 5000 courses.

Why?

Faculty recognize that CPR provides an opportunity to teach students using the higher-order thinking skills required in writing and reviewing processes. In a Calibrated Peer Review assignment, students not only learn their discipline by writing, they also learn and practice critical thinking by evaluating calibration submissions and authentic submissions from their peers. Throughout each part of an assignment they gain a deeper understanding of the topic. (See Publications.)

What does CPR entail?

A student encounters three components in each CPR assignment: Writing, Calibration Training, and Peer Review (flowchart of a CPR assignment)

  1. Students first write and submit an essay on a topic and in a format specified by the instructor.
  2. Training to evaluate comes next. Students assess three 'calibration' submissions against a detailed set of questions that address the criteria on which the assignment is based. Students individually evaluate each of these calibration submissions according to the questions specified by the rubric and then assign a holistic rating out of 10. Feedback at this stage is vital. If the evaluations are poorly done and don’t yet meet the instructor’s expectations, the students get a second try. The quality of the evaluations is taken into account in the next step evaluation of real submissions from other students.
  3. Once the deadline for calibration evaluations is passed, each student is given anonymous submissions by three other students. They use the same rubric to evaluate their peers’ work, this time providing comments to justify their evaluation and rating. Poor calibration performance in 2. decreases the impact of the grades they give to their peers’ work. After they’ve done all three they evaluate their own submission.

Once all the reviews are done, each student gets their grade, which includes the peer reviewers’ evaluation and comments, their own performance on the calibration training, and the quality of the reviews of their peers’ work and their own submission. Students also get to see the reviews submitted by the two other reviews of the submissions they reviewed, giving them a better sense of how good their evaluations were.

What does the instructor need to do? Basically, design the assignment and create the calibration submissions and the grading rubric. A number of premade assignments are available to be used or modified, or just used as guides for creation of a new one. These models are really helpful, because the 'calibration submissions' need to be carefully designed to allow students to learn to identify the errors. An instructor also needs to set up the grading criteria for the assignment, weighting the various components in a way that is consistent with the goals of the course. And finally, the instructor needs to handle problems that may arise if there are defaulting students or inconsistent grading.

CPR allows instructors to spend their time effectively on teaching and adjudicating the few student submissions that require the more advanced expertise that only they bring to the classroom. It is a much more rewarding and effective use of time.