Peer and self-assessment

A pair of students studying on a bench in front of HumSS building at the University of ReadingPeer and self-assessment, where students assess each other and themselves, can encourage students to take greater responsibility for their learning, for example, by encouraging engagement with assessment criteria and reflection of their own performance and that of their peers. Through this, students can learn from their previous mistakes, identify their strengths and weaknesses and learn to target their learning accordingly. Getting students to become more active in their learning in this way can help to alter the perception of learning as being a passive process whereby students listen to you and absorb the information in order to regurgitate during a subsequent assignment. If students are participants rather than 'spectators', they are more likely to engage with their learning.

Peer and self-assessment also give students a sense of all the things you have to consider when setting and marking work, thus helping them to more effectively 'internalise' academic standards and assessment criteria. This enables students to better understand assessment expectations and work towards improving their own performance. Getting students more actively involved in their assessment can make assessment itself a means by which they can learn and develop. To achieve this it's essential that your assessment criteria are clearly and fully described so that your students are able to understand exactly what is expected of them. Taking this a step further and allowing your students to contribute to the assessment criteria can serve to transfer ownership to the students, fostering deeper engagement with the assessment and their learning.

How can peer and self-assessment be used?

Peer and self-assessment can be used formatively and/or summatively. Their use in formative assessment is more common, perhaps due to concerns surrounding validity and reliability of students having responsibility for awarding summative grades to their peers. However, even when not used directly in summative assessment, peer and self-assessment can inform your summative marking, especially with regard to assessing group work where it can be helpful in gauging individual contributions to a group task.

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