Double-Open Peer Review: Shaping the Teaching Community

Hybrid Pedagogy uses double-open peer review, strategically crafting teaching communities by pairing authors and reviewers with intention.

Double-Open Peer Review: Shaping the Teaching Community

Writing requires trust. Authors reveal thinking through writing, essentially giving outward expression to inner thoughts. In that sense, writing makes authors transparent. And while written communication makes authors deliberately craft their ideas, authors trust readers to do the work of making meaning from the text. Readers add their interpretation to the writer’s words and might cite or re-use them. In essence, writers hand over their ideas and hope readers will properly care for those ideas.

If writing requires trust, peer-reviewing demands more. Reviewers work with texts in their formative stage, nurturing the words until they can face the world on their own. In this way, reviewers support the work of authors at a vulnerable point. But, much like teachers inherently hold authority in the classroom as arbiters of final grades, reviewers recommend changes to, or even rejection of, an article. Reviewers support the work of publications, upholding editorial styles, values, and integrity. They preserve reputations for accuracy and “excellence”. A journal implicitly trusts reviewers to help authors create texts aligning with the publication's vision, purpose, and intentions. In this way, reviewers are the vanguards of a journal's ethos. They are the journal’s intermediaries, interacting with authors to prepare pieces and readying pieces for the broader public.

This position gives reviewers tremendous power. They help shape the nature and tone of content, and they determine how authors experience the work of the journal. Those experiences run the gambit. The infamous Reviewer 3 has a reputation for frustrating authors at every turn — a reputation it seems Reviewer 3 really has earned.

By contrast, Hybrid Pedagogy reviewers place love at the center of their work. We assert that the experience of working with a journal should be supportive, nurturing, and empowering.

Our Origins: Holding Space

“This space of radical openness is a margin — a profound edge. Locating oneself there is difficult yet necessary. It is not a 'safe' place. One is always at risk. One needs a community of resistance.” — bell hooks

When Hybrid Pedagogy launched in late 2011, Jesse Stommel envisioned it as a journal that “draws new boundaries by upsetting the distinction between scholarship and teaching.” We see academic scholarship as fundamentally collaborative from start to finish, driven by care and generosity. We look at each step of the publication process as an opportunity for discussion, growth, and learning for authors — and potential transformation for articles they write. These discussions start at the submission form, where we ask authors to consider how their work engages in conversation with texts already on the journal's pages. Hybrid Pedagogy functions as an ongoing discussion with readers across the world, and the most successful pieces serve as extensions of the existing conversations, adding voices to the cacophony.

Sean Michael Morris defined Hybrid Pedagogy’s distinctive collaborative peer review process. The journal’s mission and practices merge the processes of teaching and publishing, and its peer review process must enact our pedagogy. That pedagogy calls us to work with students as agents of their learning, and as reviewers, we do the same with authors. Writing is deeply personal, and personal attention in the process offers necessary space for authors’ voices.

Our basic editorial process has changed little over the journal's history. From the start, Hybrid Pedagogy has implemented a form of peer review based on a scholarship of generosity. According to Jesse Stommel, this is work

in which editors engage directly with authors to revise and develop articles, followed by post-publication peer review. Once an article is accepted for review, we partner a new author with an editorial board member … and a guest editor.

Jesse also argued that “the notion of an ‘academic journal’ needs dismantling and reimagining.” Early articles from this journal reimagined scholarship on a practical level, opting for shorter-form pieces more likely to be consumed in a digital form or on a mobile device, preferring accessible language over abstruse academic norms, and building connections through hyperlinks over ritualized citations. These changes allow articles on Hybrid Pedagogy to engage more directly in conversation with readers and other authors in a sort of post hoc peer review. As Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel say,

Hybrid Pedagogy aims to rethink how digital media citation happens by moving away from citation as context-shaping or name-dropping and toward citation as critical-positioning and community-building.

Our review process was built on mentoring, with the goal of improving writers and teachers through collaborative dialogue. Though the specifics of that mentoring and the distribution of labor has adjusted to a changing staff, the spirit of generosity remains. Our editors think first of the needs of the author and the potential of the text. They work to help authors clarify their thinking and hone their voices. This collaborative peer review requires radical openness, with reviewers and authors being collegially introduced before working together to shape the author’s thinking. When authors and reviewers engage in meaningful dialogue (and are on a first-name basis), the author/reviewer relationship ceases to be adversarial. Our reviewers support the development of writing and author alike.

Collaborative editorial communities cannot be haphazardly (or hegemonically) formed. An additional layer of openness is necessary, one built from human connections. Thanks to our initial editors’ training courses created by Sean Michael Morris and our continued work together as an editorial team, I personally know each of the editors who have been on our staff, and I know what each brings to their work. Empathy, theory, connections, enthusiasm, caring, and logic come in varying degrees from each member of the group. I invite editors to work on articles based on the needs of author and text, not random next-in-line assignments, and when I ask reviewers to take on a piece, they each know what they’re asked to bring to the table and how that pairs with or pushes against the contributions of the other reader.

The selection of reviewers requires a deep familiarity with the editorial staff. When new pieces start the review process, I choose reviewers based on the needs of the author and text. Some authors need confidence; others, references; still others, consideration of practical application. If an author shows timidity, I look for a reviewer with patience; if the author is reserved, I seek out an excitable reviewer; if a text speaks strongly by itself, I invite a reviewer who could suggest additional outside voices. Editors (and authors) benefit when they understand why they are being asked to work on specific texts, much like students become more invested when they know why they are asked to do things in class. Reviewers also know they are free to accept or decline review any requests. This extra layer of openness creates intentional, informed involvement.

In initial emails with reviewers and authors, I initiate conversation by highlighting compelling strengths of each article. These welcome messages often also include suggestions of the direction revision might go — a general direction in which the reviewers might aim as they do their work.

Our Process: Working in the Margins

It isn't enough that our reviewers come to know the authors they are helping or that the authors are introduced to their reviewers by name at the moment of initial acceptance. Hybrid Pedagogy’s radical openness continues into decision-making and editorial assignment, as well. In this way, we respond to bell hooks’s call for “a central location for the production of a counter-hegemonic discourse that is not just found in words but in habits of being and the way one lives.” Deciding which reviewers work with each piece affects not just the quality of the writing but also its form and substance. The choice of reviewer must be as deliberate as the choice of whether an article belongs on a journal’s pages. Through intentional selection of reviewers, we establish a habit of dialogue and shape our identity as a publication.

What began as “collaborative peer review” has grown into what I call “double-open” peer review. Authors work openly with reviewers just as editors openly craft reviewer teams, designing small learning communities. We enact the “radical openness” of bell hooks by creating supportive communities of resistance. Our reviewers serve as a community of resistance, standing against the oppression of institutional education, amplifying voices, and fiercely advocating for agency — of students, authors, and adjuncts in particular.

That work depends on dialogue — asking questions, posing challenges, encouraging reflection, and developing thinking. Those dialogues require iterative interactions more involved than the tidy two-revision benchmark common in academia. We explore lengthy tangents, allowing authors and reviewers to better understand one another (and their texts). In a double-blind situation, reviewer comments are filtered through the chief editor before being delivered to the author. Then, the author responds to comments on their own through a single revision. By contrast, comments by Hybrid Pedagogy reviewers generally stay in a document until the author and both reviewers resolve proposed changes (sometimes synchronously) through mutual discussion. In this way, publishing and teaching merge to form what Jesse has called "co-constitutive practices". Our peer review process applies the work done in classrooms to the work of scholarship.

Through our work, we help co-create generous spaces for authors. For as Sean Michael Morris says, “we amplify silenced voices by listening. By making space for them to speak. Not safe space, necessarily, daring space. Because it’s never safe to speak.” We amplify and support authors, helping craft their rostra. This journal has, according to Sean, developed “a pedagogy for discussing pedagogy, building the journal as a forum” — a forum for listening. Editors and reviewers defend the spaces we build. Hybrid Pedagogy is a classroom. Editors are its teachers, and the double-open peer review process intentionally crafts the classroom wherein each of us gathers to learn.