JHS AP Language & Composition Students Participated in National Pilot Program

Thirty-eight Jamestown High School students in Norma DeJoy’s Advanced Placement Language and Composition class participated in an national pilot study involving the University of Pittsburgh and the College Board. Ten schools in the nation were selected to participate in this study. The study examined SWoRD, a peer review system for students preparing to take the Advanced Placement Language and Composition Exam. 

The online peer review system SWoRD (Scaffolded Writing and Reviewing in the Discipline) was developed at the University of Pittsburgh by Dr. Chris Schunn.  According to Chris Schunn, “[peer] feedback is very persuasive in part because students [provide feedback] in a way that other students can understand, and in part by getting feedback on common problems from multiple individuals, it’s just more persuasive: “Oh, that actually is a problem, and I really should fix it.”

Further, according to Panther Learning CEO Mark Limbach, “SWoRD helps instructors assign the qualitative assessment tasks that build writing skills while allowing students to benefit from the giving side of the feedback loop. Assessing the work of others is where we see the greatest learning benefit. You don’t know a subject until you try to teach it.” 

As part of the trial, JHS students enrolled in Panther Learning using a numeric pseudonym. They wrote a timed essay and submitted it electronically to Panther Learning. Each student was randomly assigned five student essays to evaluate using a detailed rubric and by providing written constructive criticism. Once that process was completed, students received feedback about their own pieces of writing, and were required to evaluate the quality of the feedback provided.

“The SWoRD Program was a great teaching experience – truly unlike anything I had ever seen before,” said JHS junior Abbie Johnson. “The anonymity of the program set the stage for unbiased feedback on both the essays and the comments themselves. By repeatedly dissecting a single prompt and providing in-depth feedback, I felt very confident in my ability to know what makes a superior analytical essay – essential for the AP English 11 exam when we’re required to write the same style of dissertation for testing.”

For Ms. DeJoy, “the pilot student was an intense experience that required students to put on their ‘teacher hats.’  Students learned valuable lessons about how to critically evaluate a piece of writing, with one ultimate goal: to transfer that critical eye to their own subsequent pieces of writing. As part of the process, students had to evaluate thesis statements, make suggestions on how to improve essay organization; they provided feedback of how to select and incorporate textual evidence, and they evaluated conventions.  After evaluating five 500-word essays, they were able to internalize the criteria of the rubric.”

“I was really proud of their work,” said Ms. DeJoy. “They took it seriously and provided great feedback, as proven by the statistical analysis conducted by the SWoRD team. Having constructive feedback from five different readers is so much better than having feedback from just one reader; the peer review experience was like having twenty teachers in the room instead of just me.  It was labor intensive and it was stressful at times for me, and for my students, but I expect to see great results when AP scores are released in July.”

posted on 06/11/2014 - filed under: Academics, ELA, JHS, Spotlight, Students, teachers