Putting Together Peer Review Groups

Most instructors agree that it pays off to put some thought into grouping students for peer review.  There's no magic number of students per group, but most instructors make groups of three or four students--large enough to have some variety in the feedback but small enough so that no one student has too many drafts to read and critique.  Here's some advice about setting up groups, writtten for instructors in English 100, a first-year writing course.

There's little consensus among instructors as to what kind of student combinations make for the best peer workshop groups. Some instructors have found it helpful not to place two or more men and one woman in a group, or one student of color in an all‑white group. Others have had success putting students together who are similar in temperament but diverse in gender, socioeconomic background and/or writing experience. Still others swear that mixing temperaments—two shy people with two outspoken people—provides a better balance. Some put students who seem politically and socially similar together, believing that trust will more quickly develop under those circumstances. Only one thing's for sure—there's no fool-proof way, no matter how careful you are, of ensuring that a given group will gel.

Whatever philosophy you develop about placing students in workshop groups, it is a good idea to try to get to know students during the first few class sessions, before you place students into groups. What follows is an example of the kind of questionnaire that many instructors hand out during the first class meeting in order to help them get to know students as quickly as possible.


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Please answer the following questions as candidly and specifically as possible. The information you provide will help me place you in as compatible a workshop group as possible. All of your responses will be kept confidential.



Campus Address:


E‑Mail Address:

Campus Telephone:

Anticipated Major (if known):


1.  How would you describe your attitude toward writing? Make sure you comment on what kinds of writing you've

actually done during the past year, and why you've done it (that is, what your objective was in doing the writing).


2.  Are you a better talker or listener?


3.  What books, magazines or other material do you like to read? (Please list titles; perhaps the best/most memorable items you've read in the past year.)


4.  What would you most like to get out of this course? (Please be honest.)


5.  Please list five of your character traits or habits that anyone who wanted to be your friend would have to accept.


6.  Please list five character traits or habits in other people that drive you crazy.


7.  Do you have any questions you'd like to ask me about this course's requirements or format?


8.  Finally, are there any special circumstances that may affect your work in this course that you would like me to know about? (e.g. working full‑time, commuting from Mt. Horeb, single parent, learning disability, etc.)