Why is peer assessment important?
This relates to the topic of peer review and is a variant of this approach; students mark or grade the work of other students.
Many of the earliest attempts to develop peer activities concentrated on peer assessment. Experience shows that peer assessment is often more difficult than peer review to implement successfully. This is largely because students lack confidence in their own and their peers' ability to undertake grading. This undermines their trust in the fairness of the assessment process and their satisfaction with it which can erode learning benefits.
The benefits of the peer approach derive mainly from thinking about and evaluating others' work rather than grading it. That is not to say that peer assessment can't be undertaken successfully and we introduce some examples throughout this guide.
What are the common problems?
They are similar to those experienced with peer review - the approach can be unfamiliar to students and uncomfortable for them. There are however additional issues to consider with marking and grading:
- Risk of collusion or even bullying
- Differences between tutor and peer marks can cause dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in the approach.
How might we use technology and what are the benefits?
As with peer review, the use of suitable software is essential for effective peer assessment. The overall benefits are similar to those outlined in the section on peer review. Specific benefits include:
- Introducing summative assessment of group learning even with large classes
- Giving credit to individual students on group projects - those who contribute more earn higher marks
- Grading of a student’s abilities against key skills such as leadership, communication and report writing
- Privacy and anonymity of online marking appears to promote fairness
- Permits automatic final grade calculation and helps to avoid transcription errors from manipulating data in spreadsheets.
How does peer assessment relate to the lifecycle?
Like peer review, you need to consider peer assessment at many stages of the lifecycle. For it to be most effective, you will consider it at the specifying stage and ensure that you introduce the approach early in a programme of study so that the activities become increasingly demanding as the students develop the necessary skills.
It may be a feature of the supporting stage where purely formative peer review activities take place ahead of introducing an assessment element. Peer assessment forms part of producing marking and feedback - it may generate a considerable volume of useful feedback very easily and, in some cases, peer marks may count towards the mark for a summative assessment.
It's also an important feature of the reflecting stage as the critical analysis and evaluation produced by these activities is the source of deep learning.
What resources can help?
Our video highlights WebPA - an online tool that facilitiates peer moderated group-work marking.