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Peer assessment

Peer assessment, in which students comment on and judge their colleagues work, has a vital role to play in formative assessment, but it can also be used as a component in a summative assessment package.

One of the desirable outcomes of education should be an increased ability in the learner to make independent judgements of their own and others' work. Peer and self-assessment (See page 45) exercises are seen as means by which these general skills can be developed and practised. A peer rating format can encourage a greater sense of involvement and responsibility, establish a clearer framework and promote excellence, direct attention to skills and learning and provide increased feedback (Weaver and Cotrell, 1986).

In terms of summative assessment, studies have found student ratings of their colleagues to be both reliable and valid. Orpen (1982) found no difference between lecturer and student ratings of assignments in terms of average ratings, variations in ratings, agreement in ratings or relationship between ratings. Arnold et al. (1981) reported that peer ratings of medical students were internally consistent, unbiased and valid. Other studies suggest there is variation according to factors such as age of the student (Falchikov, 1986).

Reports of the types of assessment where peer assessment is used for summative purposes include essay writing, clinical skills, speeches and oral presentations, architectural designs, interpersonal skills, photography and small group activities (Kane and Crawford, 1989). In all cases, the contribution to the overall assessment result is small (10-30%).

The second of the two examples of Peer Assessment forms attached is used to determine an individual's contribution to a group's activity. For more details see Assessing Group Work.

Advantages

  • Helps students to become more autonomous, responsible and involved.
  • Encourages students to critically analyse work done by others, rather than simply seeing a mark.
  • Helps clarify assessment criteria.
  • Gives students a wider range of feedback.
  • More closely parallels possible career situations where  a group makes a judgement.
  • Reduces the marking load on the lecturer.
  • Several groups can be run at once as not all groups require the lecturer's presence.

Disadvantages

  • Students may lack the ability to evaluate each other.
  • Students may not take it seriously, allowing friendships, entertainment value, etc. to influence their marking.
  • Students may not like peer marking because of the possibility of being discriminated against, being misunderstood, etc.
  • Without lecturer intervention, students may misinform each other.

References

Arnold, L. et al. (1981). Use of peer evaluation in the assessment of medical students. Journal of Medical Education, 56, 35-42.

Falchikov, N. (1986). Product comparisons and process benefits of peer group and self-assessments. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 11, 146-166.

Orpen, C. (1982). Student versus lecturer assessment of learning: a research note. Higher Education, 11, 567-572.

Weaver, W. and Cotrell, H.W. (1986). Peer evaluation: a case study. Innovative Higher Education, 11, 25-39.

See Also