How do I get started with peer assessment?

A group of students using computersBefore you do anything, it's important to be clear why you want to use peer assessment and whether it's appropriate for your particular assessment task. You might find the principles for using peer and self-assessment [links to external site], produced by the Education Enhancement Unit at the University of Exeter helpful in making this decision. Introducing peer assessment can also be a good opportunity to review your assessment design. The assessment design section can be a good starting point, and there is also a very useful Assessment Audit Tool (PDF 190KB) [links to external site] designed by the Higher Education Academy's UK Centre for Bioscience that can be helpful in quickly reviewing your assessment plans. 

Top tip: If you're considering using peer assessment methods in your module, here are some starting points...

Explain why you're using peer assessment

The first, and perhaps most vital step in assessment criteria is to explain to your students why you're using it – particularly emphasising the point that it's not your ticket to easy street, but rather will benefit students in a number of ways1,2. You may find this an increasingly important discussion to have in the context of rising university tuition fees. Students may be less inclined to engage with peer assessment if they feel that they're doing your job for you, and paying for the privilege!

The Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange (ASKe) at Oxford Brookes University have created a three step guide to help ensure peer assessment is a success, which is available from the Oxford Brookes website: Making peer feedback work in three easy steps! (PDF 76KB) [links to external site]

Provide opportunities for students practise being assessors

You'll need to provide opportunities for students to assess and in doing so, transfer some ownership of the assessment process to them. This is a really significant part of getting peer assessment to work. When students feel a sense of ownership of the marking criteria, they've been shown to apply these to each other's work much more objectively3. It's also the case that if the students think that you're just going to mark everything anyway, they're unlikely to fully engage with the process.

Discussion and, where possible, a degree of negotiation, of what makes a 'good' piece of work will help to both educate students in assessment techniques, and help them to feel that they have informed the assessment criteria. Where criteria are already defined, students could have input into defining these more explicitly. By explaining assessment criteria in their own words, students will not only learn to understand them more fully, so benefitting their own future work.

Phil Race has produced a step-by-step guide to developing student ownership of criteria, which can be found in The Lecturer's Toolkit see references) and is repeated in A Briefing on Self, Peer and Group Assessment (RTF 1.2MB) [links to external site] on the Higher Education Academy website.


  1. Orsmond, P. (2004). Self- and Peer-Assessment Guidance in the Biosciences. Teaching Bioscience Enhancing Learning Series. Leeds. Higher Education Academy Centre for Bioscience.
  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. Race, P. (2001). A Briefing on Self-, Peer, and Group Assessment. LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Series No. 9. York. LTSN Generic Centre.

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