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Peer and Self Assessment



Peer 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.


Peer and self-assessment can be used formative and/or summatively. Their use of informative 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.


Peer assessment is all about assessing another's learning performance in a constructive and supportive manner. When given in the right way it can allow fellow learners to dissect each other's performance and prevent complacency from setting in.


It is also useful for learners who are involved in the observation process. When giving a set criteria they are able to tick off both strengths and weaknesses in their fellow learners' work. Subconsciously they are learning themselves about how to accurately meet criteria and can pick up on fresh ideas that could help with their own work.


The teacher's responsibility is to clearly outline the assessment criteria. Learners cannot always have a free reign and could go off point when giving feedback. Debating can be a useful tool in the learning process; however, learners should not end up demotivated through the assessment process.


Self Assessment is the process of analyzing your own performance, leading to the setting of goals and possible future improvements. Arguably harder to implement and requires quite a bit of discipline form the learner to identify one's own mistakes. Despite this, it can be just as rewarding as peer assessment and lead to significant improvements in productivity and eventual grades.


Teachers can assist in this process by coming up with a clear strategy/plan on how and when self-assessment will occur. Sometimes learners may fall into the trap of feeling that they have achieved more than they have. Teachers can counteract this by confirming their achievements one-on-one.


Peer assessment guidelines

Make the guidelines for giving feedback explicit and ensure that pupils understand and follow these when working in groups or with response partners.

  • Respect the work of others.

  • Identify successful features.

  • Think about the learning objective and the success criteria when suggesting improvements.

  • Word suggestions for improvement positively.

Students individually assess each other's contribution using a predetermined list of criteria. Grading is based on a predetermined process, but most commonly it is an average of the marks awarded by members of the group.


Advantages:

  • Agreed marking criteria means there can be little confusion about assignment outcomes and expectations.

  • Encourages student involvement and responsibility.

  • Encourages students to reflect on their role and contribution to the process of the group work.

  • Focuses on the development of student’s judgment skills.

  • Students are involved in the process and are encouraged to take part-ownership of this process.

  • It provides more relevant feedback to students as it is generated by their peers.

  • It is considered fair by some students because each student is judged on their own contribution.

  • When operating successfully can reduce a lecturer's marking load.

  • It can help reduce the ‘free rider’ problem as students are aware that their contribution will be graded by their peers.


Disadvantages:

  • Additional briefing time can increase a lecturer’s workload.

  • The process has a degree of risk with respect to reliability of grades as peer pressure to apply elevated grades or friendships may influence the assessment, though this can be reduced if students can submit their assessments independent of the group.

  • Students will have a tendency to award everyone the same mark.

  • Students feel ill-equipped to undertake the assessment.

  • Students may be reluctant to make judgements regarding their peers.

  • At the other extreme students may be discriminated against if students ‘gang up’ against one group member.


Self-assessment

This is similar to peer evaluation but students assess their own contribution as well as their peers using an established set of criteria.


Advantages:

  • Encourages student involvement and responsibility.

  • Encourages students to reflect on their role and contribution to the process of the group work.

  • Allows students to see and reflect on their peers’ assessment of their contribution.

  • Focuses on the development of student’s judgment skills.


Disadvantages:

  • Potentially increases lecturer workload by needing to brief students on the process as well as on-going guidance on performing self-evaluation.

  • Self-evaluation has a risk of being perceived as a process of presenting inflated grades and being unreliable.

  • Students feel ill-equipped to undertake the assessment.


Preparing students for self or peer assessment


Students may have little exposure to different forms of assessment and so may lack the necessary skills and judgements to effectively manage self and peer assessments. There may also be a perception amongst students that the academic is ‘shirking’ their responsibilities by having students undertaking peer assessments. In this situation, students may be reminded of the Graduate Student Attributes. This also highlights the need to fully prepare and equip students for their own assessment and for the assessment of others.


It is helpful to introduce students to the concepts and elements of assessment against specified criteria in the first weeks of class when you explain the unit of study outline. This requires taking time at the outset of the group activity or unit of study to discuss what is required and to provide guidance on how to judge their own and others’ contributions. Students will need to be assisted to develop criteria that match the learning outcomes with regards to the output and process of the group work. If the assessment criteria for each element are set up and clearly communicated, your role will also change to one of a facilitator.


Further reading

https://www.reading.ac.uk/engageinassessment/peer-and-self-assessment/peer-assessment/eia-peer-assessment.aspx

https://www.reading.ac.uk/engageinassessment/peer-and-self-assessment/self-assessment/eia-self-assessment.aspx

https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2017/05/18/peer-assessment/

https://www.nfer.ac.uk/media/3113/self_and_peer_assessment.pdf

http://as.exeter.ac.uk/academic-policy-standards/tqa-manual/lts/peerselfassessment/

https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/peer-and-self-assessment-principles-and-strategies/

https://www.education.gov.scot/improvement/practice-exemplars/dylan-wiliam-self-and-peer-assessment