Peer Evaluation Exercise

An important step in writing about belief is reading and reflecting on the beliefs of others. Most compositions involve some type of peer evaluation step in producing student essays. Students are often anxious when sharing any writing with readers, so some care should be given to framing peer feedback for an essay built on a personal belief. At this stage students are not being asked to weigh or evaluate the belief itself but to respond to its presentation.

Instructions. Consider these questions to help focus peer responses.

  1. Clarity
    • Point out any confusing sentences or passages. Were you able to follow the general direction of key ideas or stories easily?
  2. Persuasiveness
    • Are you persuaded to agree or at least to say, “OK, I can respect that”?
    • What types of evidence are included? Are there vivid details,
      memorable vignettes, or striking phrases?
    • Warn the writer of cliché thinking or of not grappling with key issues.
  3. 3. Strength of Introduction and Conclusion

    • Does the introduction create interest?
    • Does the conclusion punch home the main point?
  4. Editing
    • Don’t do a complete editing job, but point out the most distracting
      slips in usage and mechanics.
  5. Style
    • How will this sound when read aloud?
    • Long sentences are fine if they move well, but point out any parts that
      seem choppy or pretentious.
    • Point out any special successes with parallelism or climactic structure.
  6. Most Successful Passage
    • Summarize a passage of one to four sentences, and add a note to
      explain why it’s successful.

Personal Essay Writing Tips

You are invited to contribute by writing and submitting your own statement of personal belief. To guide you through this process, consider these suggestions:

Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events of your life. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching – it can even be funny – but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 350 and 500 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on a core belief, because three minutes is a very short time.

Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing. Tell us what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person – “I”.

Be personal: Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. Read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

“Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent.” – Edward R. Murrow

Extra credit: record your essay as an audio podcast and upload it to your blog.