Assessment – Part 3: Peer assessment

It is a teacher’s job to discover and develop the full potential of all students. Teachers must constantly keep the attention of their students, as well as motivate them. Now that we live in times where students prefer to do tasks with minimal effort, it is a real challenge to get them to work harder and with more interest.

In this article we will talk about peer assessment and its power in e-learning.

Peer assessment is a technique

It allows teachers to evaluate the knowledge of their students through their own eyes. Peer dialogue and validation provide different points of view on how well a student understands the learning material. Through peer and self-assessment strategies, students receive meaningful insights that will make them feel more confident and self-assured about the quality of their work. This type of assessment also strengthens the camaraderie of the group and encourages dialogue and communication among peers.

Peer assessment is a process

It can be described in four sequential steps:

  • assignment of the task – teachers or instructors give directions about the job/task that will be evaluated
  • feedback giving – peers will be asked to give quantitative and qualitative feedback on the task’s execution
  • feedback reception – the assessed person reads or listens to comments on how well the task was performed
  • revision of the task performance – this is a joint activity where peers discuss how to improve the performed task or process

Reasons why peer assessment is an important and meaningful technique:

  • every student is different and has different learning styles
  • we learn from the success and mistakes of others
  • teachers don’t have enough time to perform assessments
  • students are able to confidently assess their own or another’s progress rather than having to rely on teacher validation
  • learning is a process and students are more involved when they actively participate in the evaluation
  • students become more independent and motivated
  • students are actively involved in the learning process

Before starting the peer assessment process, here are some useful techniques for teachers:

  • ensure that students perform self-assessment prior to peer assessment so that they become acquainted with the process
  • give students strategies to meet different requirements
  • encourage peer collaboration
  • advise and consult your students
  • present and explain the purposes and expectations of the assessment
  • encourage students to participate in the creation of assessment criteria
  • feedback and coaching are essential during the assessment process

Peer assessment in a virtual classroom

Encourage your students to work on a common project on a certain subject. Once the project is completed, each of the group members can assess the contribution and performance of their peers through a questionnaire or quiz.

Ask the students to make a common presentation. Each member will work on what they are best at and during the creative process they will receive constant feedback on their performance.

Initiate a group dialog in the virtual classroom on the online whiteboard where each member can share their opinion on the performance of their peers.

Ask your students to complete cover sheets after finishing a certain task. The questions on the cover sheet will be related to the way they completed their work, how they felt, and what their strengths and the weaknesses were during the process. This will allow them to create in their minds a clear picture of their understanding of the material and learning objectives.

Invite them to complete feedback forms. These forms encourage analytical thinking. By filling them out students can give specific feedback on how the assignment was done and about the quality of the work. Answering specific questions ensures a better review of their peers’ work and progress.

You could also use graphic organizers. They allow your students to classify their ideas and to increase the efficiency of their communication. On the one hand, graphic organizers improve writing, problem solving, decision making, studying, planning, research, and brainstorming. And on the other, they are a tool that can be used for peer assessment.

Ask your students to create an e-portfolio and to upload their work onto it. By sharing their work, all of their peers can comment and give their feedback.

Peer assessment in a MOOC

In a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) environment peer assessment works quite well.

An online course can be attended by thousands of students. In this situation, it can be very challenging for an instructor to try and assess all of the students.

That is why peer assessment is a working technique in MOOC environments under predefined criteria.

At the beginning of the course, teachers should give clear instructions to course participants on how the evaluation will be conducted. After that they should give them templates, quizzes, open questions, and other assessment tools with which the evaluation will be done.

Nevertheless, in this environment there will still be some challenges, such as: various backgrounds and experience levels of the reviewers, a lack of credibility regarding peer feedback, and a lack of complete transparency of the reviewing process.

In conclusion, peer assessment is a successful technique but it is critical that it be performed using clear instructions and criteria.

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Zdrava Stoeva has over 10 years experience in corporate and non-government sector. She has Master Degrees in International Relations and European Law. With strong interest in education and human rights, she is happy to contribute to projects which hit her values and beliefs.
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