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Best Practices | Peer Assessment

The common mission of most universities is to produce graduates that are lifelong learners with the ability to monitor their own development and assess their learning. Metacognition is the process of "thinking about thinking." Building metacognitive skills is essential to students, as these skills assist them in recognizing and controlling their intellectual achievement.


Metacognition allows people to take charge of their own learning. It involves awareness of how they learn, an evaluation of their learning needs, generating strategies to meet these needs, and then implementing the strategies (Hacker, 2009). Peer assessment is an authentic tool that is used to evaluate student learning while contributing to the growth of critical thinking and metacognitive skills. By utilizing this instructional tool in courses, instructors give students the opportunity to consider the attributes of quality work as they appraise the work of their classmates.


 

As students construct knowledge and produce artifacts to showcase their learning, constructive feedback can serve as a guide to help them develop an improved end product. Peer assessment is a reflective mechanism that, when done well, can lift the level of student performance.

 

Peer assessment provides benefits to the receiving student as well as the student providing the feedback. Students generally experience peer assessment as a non-threatening process that benefits their learning by providing suggestions from their peers about how to improve their work and by helping them understand the criteria that will be used for the summative assessment of their work (Wood & Kurzel, 2008).


As students construct knowledge and produce artifacts to showcase their learning, constructive feedback can serve as a guide to help them develop an improved end product.


The benefits of incorporating peer assessment into an online course are numerous. Student learning is improved as they take increased ownership of their education. Furthermore, when students know that their peers will review their work, it can empower them to take responsibility for, and manage, their own learning. The practice of critically evaluating another person's work employs numerous higher-order thinking skills. In addition, students are better able to assess their own work, and ascertain what they don't know, when they can see and consider the array of methods made evident to them during peer assessment. The ability to assess one's own work is a valuable skill that can be used throughout life.


Strategies for including peer assessment in your course:

  • When including peer assessment in your course, it's important to make clear to your students why you are using peer assessment and how it will impact their learning. By stating a purpose for incorporating the tool, you add relevance to the assignment, which will increase student motivation.
  • When developing activities that will be used for peer assessment, instructors should establish detailed and precise criteria and standards for how student work will be evaluated. Similar to developing a rubric, peer assessment criteria should use specific language that gives students consistent benchmarks for which to assess the qualities of their peers' work.
  • Instructors should allow students to practice using peer assessment on a structured low-stakes assignment prior to it being used to measure high-stakes summative assessments. This will accustom students to exposing their work to more public scrutiny, giving them safe opportunities to improve their performance using informal feedback while developing their competence as assessors (Lutze-Mann, 2015).
  • Before employing peer assessment in courses, instructors need to make sure that their students have abundant knowledge and are sufficiently equipped to make educated decisions about the work of their peers.
  • When developing activities that will be used for peer assessment, instructors should establish detailed and precise criteria and standards for how student work will be evaluated. Similar to developing a rubric, peer assessment criteria should use specific language that gives students consistent benchmarks for which to assess the qualities of their peers' work.
  • Breakdown more complicated assignments into several smaller chunks to be assessed individually and then allow students to revise their work based on commentary from their peers. This assists in supporting the importance of peer assessment as part of a greater knowledge development system.

A Peer and Self Assessment tool is available in Blackboard Learn. This tool allows students to review and assess work submitted by themselves and/or their classmates. To begin the process of using the Peer and Self Assessment tool, the instructor will need to develop the assessment; this includes developing the questions that the students will answer as a part of completing the assignment. These questions are also used during the peer assessment phase when students evaluate the work of their classmates. Instructors develop specific criteria that correspond to each question. The students will use these criteria to assign points to and provide feedback of their colleagues' assignments. Instructors have the option to allow students to self-assess their work as well. Once the assessment process has begun, the instructor can review submissions, student evaluations, and the results. When the evaluation timeframe has concluded, the instructor can send the results to the grade center.


Students will engage with two different activities while completing the peer assessment. First they will complete the assignment by answering each question that the instructor developed using the provided criteria. They will then evaluate the work of their peers by analyzing their work, assigning a score, and providing relevant feedback.


There are many advantages to using peer assessment in an online course. It's a tool that can have a substantial impact on student learning and development. Peer assessment encourages participation and interactivity between students while increasing motivation through active learning. If you are interested in using peer and self assessment in your course, please contact CIRT for assistance.

References

Hacker, Douglas J., John Dunlosky and Arthur C. Graesser (Eds.). (2009) Handbook of Metacognition in Education.

Lutze-Mann, L. (2015, March 30). Student Peer Assessment. Retrieved August 19, 2015, from https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/printpdf/544

Wood, D. & Kurzel, F. (2008). Engaging students in reflective practice through a process of formative peer review and peer assessment. In ATN Assessment Conference 2008: Engaging students in assessment. Retrieved August 19, 2015, from http://www.ojs.unisa.edu.au/index.php/atna/article/download/376/252