TEACHING NOTES: Peer assessment

Last issue we looked at self-assessment and the importance of students having the skills to identify the quality of their own work and identify areas for improvement, especially as they move into the workplace. Peer assessment is a different yet complementary technique where students evaluate the work of their peers, and have their own work evaluated by other students. This is sometimes done alongside self-assessment. Peer assessment can be formative or summative; either way it gives the students feedback on their work alongside strategies or ideas for improvement.

As peer assessment is quite personalised (given it draws on other students for feedback), it can be quite motivating for students’ continued learning. It helps students develop their ability to self-reflect on their own learning and skill development (and is thus a useful metacognitive tool) by evaluating that of their peers. For most students it is a generally positive experience and has a high level of validity and reliability where structured marking rubrics are used. Students can be more involved and invested in assignments where peer assessment is used, and it can be particularly useful where group work is being assessed.

There are always challenges! Peer assessment techniques are as varied as assessments themselves, so students need to be briefed and trained on its use and ideally examples provided as guidance. Clear marking guides / rubrics are needed so students know what they are assessing against and to help provide the confidence to overcome the idea that some students will feel they don’t have the expertise to undertake the task. There also needs to be careful preparation by the teacher so that any collaborative spirit developed during group tasks are not undermined by competitiveness in the peer assessment.

How to get started. Have:

  • Clarity of purpose – students need to understand clearly WHY you are asking them to peer assess instead of having tutors do all the marking. This should help alleviate any confusion or resentment around the task. Make sure it is contextualised around the learning outcomes for the topic and relevant graduate attributes.
  • Clear assessment criteria – ensure you have comprehensive and specific marking criteria to guide the students in assessing their peers. Consider including them in the development of the rubric so they feel more a part of the process and have a deeper understanding of the purpose of the assessment.
  • Training – students cannot be expected to assess others with no briefing or training. Consider scaffolding a larger peer assessment task with some smaller, informal or formative peer assessment tasks earlier in the teaching period. Give examples and feedback on the peer assessment.

Peer assessment is unlikely to reduce your grading workload (given the training and support needed for its success) but it’s worthwhile for developing students’ metacognitive abilities as well as their professional work ready skills.

Peer and Self-Assessment: How and why (12:29)

Self and peer assessment (FLO eLearning Gateway)

Harrison, C. (2010) International Encyclopedia of Education (3rd ed), pp. 231-235, DOI 10.1016/B978-0-08-044894-7.00313-4

Race, P. (2001), A Briefing on Self, Peer and Group Assessment—Assessment Series No. 9. LTSN Generic Centre

Topping, K. (2009) Peer Assessment, Theory Into Practice, 48:1, pp. 20-27, DOI: 10.1080/00405840802577569

Written by Cassandra Hood
Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

Posted in
Teaching Notes

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