What is it?

Peer Assessment is a student-centred assessment approach that allows students to develop a deeper insight into the quality of their own work through the assessment of peers’ work. Students take responsibility for assessing the work of their peers using the assessment criteria. Students' understanding of the assessment criteria is a key component of successful peer assessment.

In all aspects of assessment students need to understand what performance they should aim for, their level of current performance, and how to improve their performance (Hattie & Timperley, 2007; D.Royce Sadler, 1983). While developing effective peer assessment takes both time and effort, peer assessment is one method that allows students to gain practical insights on all three of these elements.

How might I use it?

Peer assessment can be used across a wide variety of activities. Students may be required to provide feedback to their peers (sometimes referred to as peer review), summative grades (moderated by you or your colleagues), or a combination of the two.

Peer assessment can be used:

  • for formative or summative assessments
  • online or in class
  • for individual or group-based activities
  • anonymously or openly

If you want to explore options for peer assessment of group work, see our guidance on Group Peer Review (guidance coming soon)

How do staff and students use it effectively?

For all forms of peer assessment, a critical success factor is that the students fully understand this type of evaluation; how it works, their role and the benefits to them.
You should provide students with:

  • a clear definition of the type of assignment they will complete
  • clear and explicit assessment criteria (with associated grades if appropriate)
  • guidance on how to use the assessment criteria
  • opportunities for students to develop their understanding of the criteria (e.g. practice activities to assess exemplars or compare student and staff assessments)

Carefully designing the peer assessment or peer review activity is crucial. The following principles, constructed by Nicol (2013) taking account of research literature, provide a framework for good practice in peer review:

  • encourage an atmosphere of trust
  • use a range of perspectives for reviews
  • give practice in formulating criteria
  • require explanations for feedback responses
  • facilitate dialogue around reviews
  • integrate self-reviews
  • encourage evaluation of received reviews
  • help learners calibrate their judgments

You will need to consider carefully how submissions will be allocated for review: this could be random, or tailored (e.g. allocations across a range of grades, within similar topics, or with different topics). Bear in mind that students need to be working on a similar topic as their peers in order to simultaneously self-evaluate their own work whilst producing feedback on their peers’ work.

You may need to supplement the peer review or peer assessment with ‘practice’ activities, which could include access to exemplar papers, to make sure students are fully prepared to apply the assessment criteria

What are the pros & cons?

Pros
  • students engage with and develop a greater understanding of the assessment criteria. This can be further extended where student co-develop the assessment criteria.
  • students take responsibility for making assessment judgments and learn how to evaluate work by their peers
  • students develop the skills to reflect on and evaluate their own work
  • students learn from formulating feedback to their peers
  • students receive a broader range of feedback from multiple peer assessors, who are working on a similar task, and are at a similar stage in learning
  • it can help students to approach assessment tasks which they are not familiar with, by seeing a range of approaches to the task
  • students are motivated to engage with the assessment task, and to engage in dialogue about feedback
  • for group work, it can address the risk of unfairness in awarding a single group mark, as it allows for assessment of individual effort and contributions to group work
Cons

For peer review or peer assessment which takes place online, the activity will run with a strict timescale, and it’s not easy to implement individual extensions to deadlines, so make sure students are aware of the importance of the deadlines, and be prepared to send reminders and prompts.

When it comes to peer assessment, where marks are awarded, students and staff may have concerns about whether students have the skills to mark each other’s work. Taking time to develop clear assessment criteria is an important stage of the process.

There are different approaches to peer assessment which can help you design your activity to address concerns over validity of peer marks:

  • a whole cohort of students can assess group work (e.g. a group presentation in class). The group mark awarded is an average of a large number of marks which can compensate for variations in marks awarded by individual students
  • you could allocate an assessment weighting for a mark from the teacher, as well as for the peer assessment element
  • you could allocate an assessment weighting for the quality of the peer review and marking, as well as for the peer assessed work itself
  • some tools have built in algorithms designed for students to peer assess individual contributions to group work. The teacher can choose the weighting given to the peer assessment element.

Case study

Peer assessment - in class group design activity

Peer assessment - in class group design activity shares the experience of introducing a peer assessment activity for a first year Structural Engineering unit. Students present their designs to their fellow students and complete a peer assessment activity to provide feedback to their peers. Professor Tim Ibell, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering

 

Peer assessment - using the Moodle workshop

Peer assessment - using the Moodle workshop discusses the use of peer evaluation to improve formative feedback opportunities for students who are submitting lab reports for the first time. Professor Andrew Heath, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering

 

Further reading

Title Link Comments
Guide to Peer Assessment Click Here This guide gives a good starting point if you are thinking of introducing peer assessment. Dr Michael Wride, University of Dublin Trinity College
Peer Evaluation and Self-Evaluation Click Here This Good Practice Exchange film features a discussion on enabling students to self-evaluate and peer evaluate. Janet Rooney, winner of the 2013 MMU Student Union award for Best Personal Tutor at Manchester Metropolitan University
Can students assess students effectively? Some insights into peer-assessment
Click Here
Case studies discussing the benefits and limitations of peer assessment. Manchester Metropolitan University
Student Peer Assessment - Video Case Study Click Here Video case study about the introducing peer assessment. Dr Josh Robinson from the School of English, Communication & Philosophy
Factors influencing student peer assessment
Click Here
Peer assessment of mini conference format posters with 3rd year Microbial Biotechnology students. Primrose Freestone, Department of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Leicester.
Primrose used

 

References

Nicol, D. (in press) Guiding principles for peer review: Unlocking learners' evaluative skills, In Advances and Innovations in University Assessment and Feedback, eds C. Kreber, C. Anderson, N. Entwistle and J. McArthur, Edinburgh University Press. http://www.reap.ac.uk/PEERToolkit/Design.aspx

 

Themes

  • Peer learning
  • Assessment and Feedback

Guidance

A guide to the Moodle workshop tool - coming soon

A guide to Moodle group peer review activity

Copyright information

Bath Baseline

UK Professional Skills Framework

Contacts

For advice on tools for peer assessment to enhance learning, teaching and assessment contact the TEL team: tel@bath.ac.uk