Peer Assessment

WHAT IS PEER ASSESSMENT?

Peer assessment is a process through which students and instructors share in the evaluation of student work. It can have many different forms. Researchers find that peer assessment deepens students’ understanding of their own learning and empowers students to become more actively engaged and self-directed in their learning processes (Falchikov, 2005; Sivan, 2000).

HOW CAN PEER ASSESSMENT BE IMPLEMENTED?  

Identify learning activities for which peer feedback would be helpful to students.

Consider the degree to which you want students to be involved. The advantage of having students actively involved in developing scoring guidelines is increased accuracy when students implement the guidelines during peer assessment. The disadvantage is that students are not yet experts in the content area.

In the lowest level of student involvement:

  • An instructor prepares model answers and guidelines for feedback, which students use to assess the work of peers.
  • Peer assessment grades are recommendations only, and the instructor makes final grading decisions.
  • Students are required to participate and any student unhappy with a peer assessment grade could seek an independent assessment by the instructor.

In the highest level of student involvement:

  • Students and instructors work together to prepare model answers and scoring guidelines.
  • Students then use the negotiated guidelines to assess the work of peers.
  • Students are then responsible for providing feedback to the other students.

HOW CAN YOU IMPLEMENT PEER ASSESSMENT MOST EFFECTIVELY?  

  1. Make the guidelines easy to implement.
  2. Fully train students on the implementation and importance of the guidelines.
  3. Require assessors to justify their judgments.
  4. Create a classroom environment that feels safe for interpersonal risk-taking so that students will feel more confident in evaluating their peers.
  5. Share the responsibility of the final grade between the instructor and students if concern exists about student bias.
  6. Emphasize to students that the main focus of their peer assessment should be useful feedback, not grading.
  7. Use clear guidelines.
  8. Monitor use of guidelines by the students.
  9. Help students learn to provide effective feedback by modeling appropriate, constructive criticism and descriptive feedback.
  10. Use small feedback groups so that feedback can be explained and discussed with the receiver.
  11. Encourage students to be as supportive as possible in critiquing the work of other students.
  12. Stress benefits of being a peer assessor to students, such as it helps them evaluate their own work and become more self-directed learners.
  13. Train students how to interpret feedback so that they can make appropriate connections between the feedback received and the quality of their work.

WHAT QUESTIONS MIGHT ARISE REGARDING PEER ASSESSMENT?

  1. Isn’t assessment the role of the instructor, not the student? With the explosion of available information, the role of instructor is evolving into a partnership with students to help students learn how to critically evaluate their own learning and thinking. Peer assessment helps in this endeavor.
  1. Students say that peer assessment is just a way of saving the instructor’s time. Is this true? Address this concern by reviewing the benefits of peer assessment to students and explaining how you have to prepare extensively for effective peer assessment. Allow time for students to view the value of peer assessment.
  1. Won’t students simply agree to award each other high marks? This can be alleviated by requiring students to justify their marking decisions, reducing the extent to which peer assessments “count” towards final grades, rewarding groups for dealing with this type of activity and penalizing them for lack of action, and designing schemes to increase student responsibility and ownership.
  1. Won’t some students use the opportunity to assess peers as a way of settling old scores?/ Won’t students fear reprisals from peers to whom they’ve awarded low marks? Alleviate this concern by stressing the importance of evidence and criteria, requiring students to justify their ratings, and/or using averages of several peer ratings rather than single ratings.
  1. Don’t students lack the knowledge or experience to carry out the task? Students can be given the relevant knowledge through effective training. Also, design the tasks to encourage development of student confidence and skills by repeating the experiences and assigning multiple students to assess the same work and discussing lessons learned.
  1. Won’t existing friendship patterns interfere with peer assessment? Discuss this potential problem with students before they engage in assessment. Also, explain what specific scores or grades mean, and how non-realistic assessments can be harmful for learning. Explain that relatively few people perform at the highest or lowest levels.
  1. Won’t students find assessing themselves or their peers stressful? Well planned and executed schemes will minimize stress. Help students gain satisfaction from the increased power and responsibility they receive from peer assessment. Compliment students for their honesty and help them convert a sense of failure into a sense of valuable self-appraisal.
  1. Won’t it take students too long to get through the marking process? Time can be saved by planning and implementing peer assessment schemes carefully.

References

Boud, D. (1995). Assessment and learning: contradictory or complimentary? In P. Knight (ed.) Assessment for Learning in Higher Education, London: Kogan Page in association with the Staff and Educational Development Association.

Falchikov, N. (2005). Improving Assessment Through Student Involvement: Practical solutions for aiding learning in higher and further education. Routhledge, New York. ISBN-0-415-30821-6. Peer-Assessment. Cornell University: Center for Teaching Excellence

Sivan, A. (2000). The implementation of peer assessment: an action research approach. Assessment in Education, 7, 2: 193-213.