Why should I use peer assessment?

Two male students working on peer assessment in a cafeThere are a number of reasons why you may wish to use and/or further develop peer assessment in your modules. The main factors were highlighted by Phil Race as follows:

  • Students are doing it already in different ways.
  • Students will get the chance to find out more about assessment culture.
  • Lecturers have less time to assess than before.
  • Learning is enhanced when students have contributed to their marking criteria.
  • Assessing is a good way to achieve deep learning.
  • Students can learn from the successes of others.
  • Students can learn from other's mistakes1.

Top tip: When deciding whether to use peer assessment, it's worth considering the following...

Peer assessment encourages 'deep learning'

One of the major benefits of peer assessment to students is the impact that this type of deep learning and the self-evaluation skills derived from peer assessment can have on their subsequent performance2,3. In order to properly assess the work of their peers, students need to have a good understanding of the assessment criteria and the assignment task, both of which promote a deeper approach to learning4.

Using peer assessment can help develop clearer assessment criteria

Peer assessment necessitates a transparent marking system, as the criteria must be clear to your students in order for them to assess the work of their peers. Through this they learn to understand what constitutes 'good work' and can learn from their peers, for example in terms of the different approaches to an assignment. These are fundamental skills, which can be carried forward into later pieces of work, possibly promoting greater engagement throughout a course of study.

Peer assessment is a good way to generate timely feedback

Feedback is a hugely important part of peer assessment. It has been shown that in some cases students respond better and engage more fully with the feedback they get from their peers than they do with comments from their tutors. Peer assessment can therefore be a valuable way of providing more frequent and relevant formative feedback that students can act upon.

Using peer assessment may lead to improvements in your other assessment practices

It's not just your students that can benefit from the use of peer assessment. The process of explicitly defining and explaining assessment criteria can be of benefit to your own assessment practices.

Peer assessment may reduce your workload

Peer assessment has the potential to reduce your marking workload by handing over some responsibility to students. Use of peer assessment can, in some circumstances, help to alleviate the pressures of larger class sizes and other constraints on your time. That's not to say that introducing peer assessment is the key to the easy life! Much of the effort in designing peer assessment is front-loaded, because in order to make it work successfully, you first have to explain to students what it is, why you're doing it and how it will work, then provide them with opportunities to acquire the relevant assessment (and feedback) skills.

References

  1. Race, P. (2001). The Lecturer's Toolkit. London. Kogan Page, pp. 94-95.
  2. Brown, S. Rust, C. & Gibbs, G. 1994. Strategies for Diversifying Assessment in Higher Education. The Oxford Centre for Staff Development, Oxford. Oxonion Rewley Press.
  3. Falchikov, N. (2007). In: Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education (Boud, D. & Falchikov, N., eds.), pp. 128-144. Abingdon. Routledge.

  4. Hughes, I E (1995) Peer assessment of student practical reports and its influence on learning and skill acquisition. Capability, 1, 39-43

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