What is peer assessment and why use it?
Peer assessment is a mode of co-evaluation that involves analysis of a student’s work by other students. Using a rubric to guide their assessment of the performance and quality of the activity or output, students are engaged in providing and receiving feedback to and from their peers.
Peer assessment is an effective way to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as areas where students need to further develop their understanding. Assessing one another’s work gives students better insight into what “good” looks like and encourages more active involvement in their learning and related assessment.
- What does good assessment look like online?
- Guiding students to learn from each other through peer feedback
- Equity, agency and transparency: making assessment work better for students and academics
By enabling students to analyse one another’s work, students can learn from others’ successes and mistakes and benefit from the feedback of their peers relating to their own work. This can aid motivation as they’re encouraged by their peers to carry out deeper learning and build their own knowledge.
How does it work?
The key steps to successfully implementing peer assessment are:
1. Identify the learning activity for which peer assessment could be useful. For example, peer assessment is effective when applied to activities that require problem-solving, research and questioning, application of learning, reflective judgement and critical thinking.
2. Select the tool or platform where the peer assessment will take place. In some platforms there are mechanisms to organise and deliver feedback. You can adjust the settings so feedback can be anonymous or include student names; there is often an option to set the date period, as well as the number of assignments that you want each student to assess. For example, Blackboard and Canvas are platforms that help facilitate management of these tests. They enable time to be assigned for each student to perform a peer assessment and there are features to show the student what he must do before taking the assessment.
3. Establish the evaluation criteria. This will guide the students in their evaluations and ensure all the activities or assignments are evaluated under the same rules. Guiding questions are:
1. What to evaluate? Example: content, quality of the activity or output, analysis of topics and so on.
2. When are we going to evaluate? When is the final assignment submitted or is there an ongoing assessment prior to this?
Application of peer assessment focuses on students’ continuing progress as well as final results. Therefore, considering the guiding questions mentioned above, peer assessment can be applied to the understanding of a topic that was used to develop a writing project. For example, a criterion in the assessment rubric could be: “The different parts of the project are developed in a coherent way, with an adequate and varied use of vocabulary and grammatical structures.” To make it clear and easy for the students to perform peer evaluation, we recommend distributing and reviewing the rubrics and rules ahead of any evaluation.
4. Establish basic rules of peer assessment. Establishing ground rules that regulate the way in which feedback is framed and delivered will help to build trust in who is being assessed and in the evaluator. Examples of good feedback practice might include:
1. For every negative comment, a positive comment is offered
2. Avoid discriminatory language
3. Keep feedback constructive rather than critical.
5. Make sure all students understand the activity, the assessment criteria and the tools used to carry out the peer assessment. One way to verify that the students have understood the activity and the established criteria is through a practice round before applying the planned assignment.
Recommendations for effective peer assessment
- Identify learning activities where peer assessment is useful for students, such as essays, writing activities, summaries, questions for reading comprehension, and so on.
- Support students to provide effective feedback through comments that exemplify best practice in assignments.
- Explain the benefits of peer assessment to students’ learning and personal development as this will encourage greater buy-in and motivate the students to take the process seriously.
- Decide how much impact the peer assessment process should have on the overall course evaluation and results and share this information with students at the start.
- Understanding students’ perceptions and gathering feedback on the peer assessment process itself may help improve the design and direction to reduce any uncertainty and anxiety. Ask students questions such as, “Was the purpose clear? How do you feel about assigned grades?”
The benefits of peer assessment
- By allowing students to participate in the evaluation process, they become more aware of what is expected from them and build greater trust in the assessment process.
- It supports peer learning by providing opportunities for analysis and feedback of other students’ work.
- Students benefit from the knowledge and vision of their peers and learn from different approaches.
- It encourages dialogue, interaction and sharing common meanings with peers.
- It develops critical thinking skills, effective communication and problem-solving skills in the assessment and delivery of feedback.
- It allows students to make a final and thorough review of their work before submitting it for evaluation.
- It increases students’ confidence when faced with evaluation and gives them a clearer understanding of how to improve their performance.
Peer assessment is a useful evaluation strategy in any modality – online, in person, hybrid – since it helps students acquire a greater understanding of the activity as well as the content.
The role of the professor is key to effective peer assessment because they are the person who guides the students and ensures the process is fair. They must provide a framework that helps eliminate subjectivity in the evaluations and promotes constructive criticism, aiding the learning of both the assessor and the assessed.
Claudia Janeth Hernández Cardona is a pedagogical architect and Karla Margarita Banda Martínez is leader of designing solutions, both at Tecnológico de Monterrey.