Monday, 15 July 2013

You mean I have to grade my friend? Pt. 2

This is the second post which will look at alternative assessment for use in the classroom. Peer-assessment (PA) is another method which can be used to get your students involved in the assessment process. 

What is peer-assessment?

“When it comes to measuring individuals relative contribution to group work, the only people who reallyknow what the relative contributions are, are the students themselves.” (Race 2001)

Peer-assessment can be used by students to assess each other's work. For example, if your class write an essay or do a presentation, your students can give their classmate's a grade. There are two kinds of PA, which are formative (as you go) and summative (at the end) (Falchikov 1995), I will talk about this in more detail later on. 

Why use it?
Peer-assessment can really change the learning environment of your classroom. Instead of the teacher controlling everything, the students feel like they have a say in how their work is graded. This can turn students from passive on-lookers to active participants (Harris 1997; Gardner 2000). 

An issue of trust
As with self-assessment trust is always going to be a question that both teacher and even students will ask. Unlike self-assessment, where students take responsibility for themselves, peer-assessment asks students to take responsibility for others. This can cause anxiety on the part of the student and stress at the thought of having to take on the role of the teacher (Gardner 2000; Kennedy 2006). 

Another issue, which concerns reliability and validity, is over- and underrating (Boud and Falchikov 1989; Wilmot and Crawford 2005). Studies report that weaker students tend to overrate themselves whereas stronger students tend to underrate themselves. Of course this adds to the argument that peer-, or self-assessment may not be trustworthy, however, more studies report that used in the correct way, reliability and validity can be greatly increased. 

In the end, it is up to you, the teacher, to decide how best to assess your students. Peer-assessment just gives the students a great say in how the assessment process goes. 

The next section will provide some examples of rubrics, which can be used for peer-, or self-assessment. 

How can it be used?

Formative - PA can be used to assess the on-going progress made by the students. This is a good way for students to get some immediate feed-back on the progress they are making. PA is especially useful if you have a large class as much of the feedback can be done by them. As it is on-going, 

Summative - PA can be used to assess the final product created by the students. Much like self-assessment, students can be responsible for a percentage of their classmate's grade. 

Examples of Peer-assessment Rubrics

Product Rubrics
The rubric below was used to assess a Wiki project. I wrote the rubric using easy English, so the students would easily be able to understand it. 

Project Self-/Peer-assessment Rubrics
I have use this rubric, or a version of it, for self-, peer-, as well as a teacher-based assessment. 

Soft skills rubric
The next rubrics could be used to assess soft skills such as team work, collaboration, sharing, contribution, or any other soft skill which you think is important for the process of the task. 

Peer-/self-assessment rubric to assess soft skills

I like assessing soft skills, because I do a lot of group work. The process is usually just as beneficial as the final product, so I believe that assessing soft skills can help create a better final product. 

Peer Evaluation Form
If you are still a little skeptical of peer-assessment or self-assessment for that matter, you can create a peer-evaluation form. It can be used as confirmation of scores made by individuals, or of other group members. I keep it pretty simple and ask basic questions such as: Who did the most work in your group? Who needs to work harder next time? You will find that students will be very honest and accurate about this. On many occasions, students have stated that they themselves need to work harder next time as they were the weak link in the activity. Finally, I included a pie chart, where students could quantify how much work each person contributed. 

Williams, S (2013) Peer-evaluation Form
I have used various assessment methods in my class and it really depends on what kind of activity you are assessing. When my students do collaborative group tasks, I use self- and peer-assessment, because it is so complex and the demands on the students are great. When it comes to singular work, I use self-, or peer-assessmet to bring the students into the assessment process.

I have learned that assessing work with the students helps them to better understand what is expected of them. They know what I want them to achieve and they know how to do it. I really feel that it helps to take away some of the vagueness out of the assessment process. 

Giving away some power to the students was strange at first, but now I trust them with it. Due to this trust, I feel that my classroom is a better place for my students and I. Admittedly, it is a trial and error process and whatever I have mentioned here may not be suitable for your particular situation. That said, I hope it gives some food for thought when it comes to your classroom. 

In the next post on assessment I'll go over how I create the rubrics with my students and not for them.


Falchikov, N. (1995). "Peer feedback marking: Developing Peer Assessment." Innovations
in Education and Training International 63: 15-28.

Gardner, D. (2000). "Self-assessment for autonomous language learners." Links & Letters

Harris, M. (1997). Self-assessment of language learning in formal settings. Oxford, Oxford
University Press.

Kennedy, G. J. (2006). Peer assessment in group projects: Is it worth it? Australian
Computing Education Conference. Australia

Boud, D. and N. Falchikov (1989). "The role of self-assessment in student grading."
Assessment and evaluation in Higher Education 15(1): 101-111.

Wilmot, P. and A. Crawford (2005). Validating the assessment of individuals within
undergraduate teams. International conference on Engineering Educations, Gliwice.


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