The Peer Factor game is designed to be an easy-to-use, interactive Flash game. In two separate episodes, Peer Factor introduces students to the full process of peer review: giving feedback and getting feedback. Both episodes are designed to model what we have identified (with the help of students, extant scholarship, and Bedford/St. Martin’s authors [i.e. textbooks]) as the best practices of peer review. Thus, Episode One: Giving Feedback, models how to pay attention to the page, think alongside the writer, talk the peer review talk, and be there for one’s peers. Episode Two: Getting Feedback models how to be a good listener, negotiate for better feedback, invite specific kinds of help, and show appreciation.
In Episode One, students engage in a simulated peer review session. They begin by choosing one of six possible “student authors” (each of which has a paper that needs editing) and one “peer partner.” Then students begin the process of evaluating the work and offering feedback. Players respond to four questions from their “peer partner” and choose the best possible response. They see the effect of their suggestions register on the author’s face as either a smile or a frown and in the “goodwill meter”—a scoring metric that grows with good choices and shrinks with poor ones. At the end of the game, they receive advice based on their cumulative score.
In Episode Two, students, as authors, learn to receive criticism from their peers. They form a group by choosing from the same six characters seen in Episode One, and they choose whether they want to begin at the invention stage, the first draft stage, or the revised draft stage. Each character has a distinct personality which determines his or her strengths and weaknesses in peer review. As the reviewers offer comments, the player must choose among four responses. The best of these will push the reviewers to offer more detailed and more specific feedback. The player’s score goes up whenever he or she successfully negotiates for better feedback. At the end of the game, students receive advice based on their cumulative score.
Our ultimate goal was to create an interactive, educational game¹ that prompted student-players to question their approaches to peer review. Through this process—of questioning, forming an hypothesis, and experimenting on that hypothesis—we hoped that students would recognize their own agency both as reviewers and writers. We hoped, also, to model the best practices of peer review, as it has been documented in our own classrooms and in the relevant literature.
1: Throughout this essay, we refer to Peer Factor and games like it that make educational content their primary delivery goal (over entertainment or simulation) as educational games.