2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 18
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


HEISE, Elizabeth A.1, PALMER-JULSON, Amanda1 and SU, Tim M.2, (1)Natural Sciences, Blinn College, P.O. Box 6030, Bryan, TX 77805, (2)Chemistry Department, City College of San Francisco, 50 Phelan Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112, eheise@uclalumni.net

Calibrated Peer Review (CPR)TM is a web-based technical writing and critical thinking instructional tool (http://cpr.molsci.ucla.edu). CPR was recently developed under an NSF systemic reform initiative in Chemistry (DUE 95-55-605) at UCLA, and is maintained on their servers. It is currently supported by the University of California, and is shared at no cost to colleges and universities. The technical support team at UCLA makes it easy for new instructors to implement CPR in their courses.

In CPR assignments, students submit short essays, then read and evaluate examples of well-, moderately and poorly written essays to calibrate their scoring. Their overall assignment grade combines the scores for the student’s essay with the results of their calibrations, their assessment of peers’ essays, and self-assessment. CPR thus follows the model of actual scientific writing: anonymous peer review. Furthermore, it addresses a problem facing college faculty across the nation: how to assess critical thinking and technical writing skills without requiring additional grading resources.

To investigate the effectiveness of CPR in an introductory geology course, we gave the same set of essay assignments to two sections. One section had traditional writing assignments; the other used CPR. The source material for the first assignment was an online article; the second assignment was based on published geological case studies. The internet-based article discussed the nature of geology and the special qualities of geologists; students were asked to express the main points in their own words and offer personal insights. The case studies offered concise summaries of real world issues; this set the stage for critical thinking.

With the traditional writing assignments, students’ writing skills showed no improvement between the first and second essays. With CPR, students demonstrated improvement in technical writing and critical thinking skills between the two assignments.