Access to Practice also capitalizes on how the process of writing, reviewing, and revising improves students’ understanding of concepts and conventions. “It allows students to engage with knowledge in a way that helps them to tackle hard concepts,” Wilton says. He gives the example of his students being tasked with explaining a child’s genetic abnormality to their parents: “They have to write their answer in around 400 words, and that gets reviewed by two of their peers.” This communal learning exercise, which has both prompts and rubrics designed by faculty and project leadership together, has had a surprising finding: students seem to learn more by reviewing others than by being reviewed themselves.
In addition to the structured peer review exercises improving student learning and success, preliminary data shows that participation in the written exercises can increase feelings of disciplinary belonging in students. Faculty at UCSB have the opportunity to participate in the intervention, and the AtP leadership team has worked hard to share the impactfulness of their peer review exercises through publications (e.g., Woods et al., 2021) and presentations. “We’ve done lots of workshop presentations for instructors about how to create structured peer reviews,” Woods says. Outside of local UCSB meetings, Woods and Safronova presented at SABER West 2023, where their theme was Supporting Equitable Transitions in STEM Education.