From here, students write problem/solution papers through familiar process steps including a variety of organizational strategies and, finally, peer review. They may assemble portfolios or submit individual pieces through Blackboard. By the time drafts are shared in online groups for peer workshop, we find those workshop groups much more highly cohesive and student more truly invested in one another’s success than is otherwise typical in our experience, and their shared expertise empowers them to make very useful peer review suggestions. Furthermore, we give fairly specific discussion scripts for peer review, encouraging reviewers to reflect back on the collective research as they make suggestions for one another’s revision. We might ask specifically whether something in the reviewer’s draft ought to be taken into consideration in the author’s, for instance, or whether there are any sources in the shared annotated bibliography that the author should include, reminding them that they are writing from the same pool of information and thus authoritative, expert critics of one another’s drafts.
We also want students to be conscious of the ecological work they are doing, what it means to write from a nearly infinitely complex ecology of ideas and information but to a specific discourse community and with a specific purpose. Revising the visual rhetoric of the tree, designed initially to intensify the complexity of students’ understanding of their topics, we encourage students now to see their final paper as one small but sturdy bridge out of the dark forest. So that this consciousness becomes more readily apparent—both to us as we grade and to the students themselves—we ask to see it. Students write a reflective paragraph as a sort of cover letter, stating their paper’s basic aim, the way they have narrowed and proposed to solve the problem, and describing the rhetorical discourse community in which their paper aspires to participate.