A Process for Peer Dialogue

How to Benefit from Your Colleague's Perspectives

Peer Dialogue Process

How to Benefit from Your Colleague's Perspectives

Peer Dialogue

This page describes the Peer Dialogue process (as explained by Patty Gordon) that is used in the Body Language modules with the CATIE Center and other workshops that Doug and Patty are a part of.  It is provided in both ASL and English.  It is designed to allow you to get the most out of your dialogue with a peer.

An Explanation in ASL

An Explanation in English

The English version is provided as a series of questions and answers.

So you’ve filmed a sample of your work. Now what?

First, you look at the sample and provide your own comments, then your peers can look at the sample and pose questions and offer thoughts that can help you look deeper into the decisions made during the interpretation.

What? I thought I was supposed to get feedback?

While you may not be getting traditional feedback in this self-paced environment, your peers can help you look at your work and decisions to gain focus for self-improvement. Here’s the premise of Peer Dialogue.

  1. Interpreting is a set of decisions (e.g. what does the speaker mean, how can I represent that in the target, what do I need to clarify/correct, how did what I just interpreted relate to the ideas before). Decisions are made in the mind and all another person sees is the result of those decisions (the interpreting product).
  2. Only the person who makes the decisions (i.e. the interpreter) understands why any given decision is made at any given time.
  3. The interpreter’s peers may be able to help the interpreter understand how those decisions impacted the interpretation through dialogue and questions.
  4. It is less important “what” was signed or said than “why” something was signed or said. Only by looking at the decision-making process will an interpreter be able to identify what they need to focus on in future work.
I hate giving/getting feedback!

All of us tend to give the kind of “feedback” we learned or heard from other students or teachers. We may find it comfortable, but it’s not very helpful to the interpreter. These are examples of what we typically see or do when giving feedback:

Global comments on the work or the person
“I really liked how you signed xyz”
“That was so good! You are such a great interpreter!”
“You sign very English/you mouth a lot.”
“You sign so clear.”

Self-criticism or comparison
“I’m a new interpreter and not very good at classifiers.”
“I wish I could sign like Nigel/Doug/whoever but I’ll never be that good.”
“My fingerspelling sucks”

Vague or unrealistic goals
“I need help with my classifiers”
“Just tell me anything you see me doing wrong.”
“I want to understand fingerspelling every time.”

Corrections without understanding the interpreter’s rationale
“That sign for ‘hospital’ is old and it’s not signed that way anymore.”
“You should have used the index finger classifier instead of the two-legged
“You forgot to show that the stomach is under the ribs”

Another approach: Peer Dialogue Process

Interpreter actions

1. Create a work sample. Look at the work sample and identify areas of interest to you. These can be sections that work well, sections that are less effective or sections where something happened that forced you to make a decision you would like to review.

2. Write a response to the work that explains:

  • What caught your attention in the work before, during or after you reviewed it?
  • What happened in your mental process that made the work more or less successful?
  • What are your thoughts about that section (or the overall work) now that it is complete?
  • Is there a pattern of errors, strengths or omissions in the work? What decisions were you having to make that caused that pattern?
  • How do the decisions made in this sample relate to decisions made in previous samples (if applicable)
  • What can your peers look at/ask you about that might help you zero in on how your decisions can be improved, deepened or changed?

3. After your peers have made their comments, identify an area of focus for your next work sample. What will you do differently? How will you do that? What do
you want to make sure you reinforce to replicate any successful decisions?

Peer actions

1. Watch the work sample posted by the interpreter without the source text (don’t have the sound on if there is an English source and don’t watch the screen if it is an ASL source). It is not necessary to take notes, simply watch the sample.
Read the interpreter’s reflection comments. If helpful, you may then go back and watch the sample with the source text.

2. Respond to any requests from the interpreter. If you like, you may go back and look at sections mentioned by the interpreter in their reflection and provide your own thoughts about that moment.

3. Add any other thoughts you have about moments in the work that are more or less effective understanding that the interpreter themselves must then decide if that comment needs to be pursued. Provide specific examples and follow up with a question if at all possible.


1. Interpreter posts work sample interpreting about aneurysms.

2. Interpreter posts their own reflection on the work.

“I felt confident going into this work because we had seen Nigel demonstrate veins and arteries and I have a good visualization of the location of the veins and arteries in the brain and body. I understand what an aneurysm is, so I was
thinking I would be able to depict it clearly. Overall, I felt I was able to represent the basic idea of an artery and it getting swollen, bursting and it being very dangerous. When I looked at the sample afterward, I still think something wasn’t clear in showing where the aorta is and how it would burst. I don’t know if it’s the wrong handshape or what. It was more clear when depicting the arteries going to the brain but something about the aorta doesn’t seem “right”. Anybody out there have an idea of why it looks odd?

The other thing was I was filming at home and I heard my husband come in the front door right when I got to the part about the heavy bleeding so I lost focus. I ended up signing “HEAVY” like a weight instead of showing bleeding – just flipped back into English for a minute. It only really happened there, I think. I did see that I still have a lot of the English words on my mouth, except I was able to show the non-manual markers on my mouth for the blood vessels filling up because I had Nigel’s version in my mind so it just happened.”

3. Peer reviews the work and interpreter reflection and posts a response:

(Interpreter), I think the thing you are seeing with the aorta is that it seems to come straight down from the heart instead of arching out of the top (hope that makes sense). So the location is right, but somehow the way it’s “drawn” on your body seems not quite realistic. It looks more realistic when the blood vessels to the head are drawn – they curve up and around and look more like they would in real life.

I agree that all the bigger ideas were clear and present, particularly the showing of the blood vessels filling up. I was also noticing the switch into English when you signed “HEAVY” – but I can understand how it gets distracting filming at home. I swear my cat just waits till I start to film to jump up on my keyboard.

I wanted to ask about the bursting of the blood vessels. In the work sample, it kind of looks like the blood spills out of the bottom (like the bottom of a pail bursting) instead of a round aorta bursting. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to show it bursting…I guess I don’t really know if it splits or tears or what…what led you to show it the way you did? It was depicted a little different when showing it bursting in the brain – what made you choose to do that one differently?

4. Interpreter makes a plan for the next work sample (may or may not be posted to the group)

I want to continue to keep Nigel’s face in my mind so I remember to use the mouth morphemes he uses in depiction.
I will study the graphics a bit more closely before beginning so that when I show something in the body, it looks more “real” in the way I move or describe it.