Assessment, Group Work, Learning Technology, Peer Assessment, Student engagement

Peer Assessment – tell us what you really want.

by Allan Theophanides

Until ‘fairly’ recently (the past 10 years or so) Peer Assessment has been considered very much a primary/further education practice. Many times I remember completing an exercise in school only to have the teacher ask us to swap workbooks with the person we were sat next to, in order for them to mark our work.

Now years later (and no, I’m not going to divulge how many years later!), working as a Learning Technology professional I can still see how this basic approach to marking clearly illustrates three of the major advantages of using Peer Assessment:

Exercise books

Photo courtesy of ninianne under Creative Commons

  1. Time – peer marking reduces the amount of time it takes for one person to mark the same work multiple times (in my primary class this would have been 30 students).
  2. Human error – a fresh pair of eyes marking something once means that there is a significant reduction in human error due to ‘marking fatigue’ which can occur as a result of grading the same paper over and over again.
  3. Learning through mistakes – it is a well established fact that people can learn from their mistakes. A key part of assessment is about effective feedback, which helps the student discover where they have gone wrong and how to fix it. Marking someone else’s work allows students to compare and contrast their own work with a peer in a supportive environment where it feels ‘safe’ to make mistakes. Access to the correct answers means that learning about how to fix takes place (an almost subconscious absorption of the answers). This is further reinforced when receiving work back and looking through confirming what is right and wrong to check marking is correct, and to try and ensure such errors don’t happen again.

So it’s no wonder that with such possibilities, Peer Assessment should be seen as a valuable tool within all levels of education.

Peer Assessment in higher education

Peer Assessment has been a bit of a ‘buzz phrase’ in higher education for a number of years and there are thousands of papers written on the subject, and countless technological tools and facilities available that claim to help.  However, ELTT has received some queries from staff recently expressing an interest in trying it out, but after some initial discussions it became very evident that the requirements for such an assessment differ widely depending on the activities involved and learning outcomes required.

Consequently from a learning technology perspective, this makes it extremely hard to distinguish what tools can be used, and also from a support view, it is difficult to ascertain the specific requirements when the query is simply, “I want to try Peer Assessment“. To try and help with this I have devised a Peer Assessment Schema that collates the necessary details into standardised terms, but also doubles as an academic assessment planning tool.  Essentially the idea is that before someone comes to ELTT for advice on Peer Assessment, they first consider what they would like to achieve from the options outlined in CUPA Schema.  Then, when these decisions have been made, each component has its own explicit term attached to it that helps build up a more detailed explanation of what is required from Peer Assessment.

Cardiff University Peer Assessment Schema
[link also available under Directory of Expertise in top menu]

Once completed, although the end result may be seen as a little unwieldy as a term in itself; as a full description of a very particular type of Peer Assessment it has a significant amount of detail and information that can drastically change the way in which that Peer Assessment is delivered. From a Learning Technology support perspective this describes everything we need to know in order to help get staff on the right track and recommend the right tools for the job.

If you are a member of academic or support staff in Cardiff University and are thinking of using some form of Peer Assessment, please take a look at the Schema and let us know how you get on with it.  Alternatively you could just submit a request via the form below selecting the appropriate options in each domain and someone in ELTT will get back to you.

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Please note:  we can only give guidance on using Peer Assessment in programmes to Cardiff University staff, consequently this form is only for use by CU staff.  Any submissions not from a CU email address will be deleted.

Coming full circle – developing CUPAS through peer contributions

Although CUPAS has been developed with a specific requirement for ELTT and Cardiff University staff in mind, I have purposefully tried to create it in such a way that it could be embraced and developed further in the wider Learning Technology community.

Consequently, you may have noticed that I have placed a CC licence on it to allow for duplication and modification, so you are free to use this Schema for non-profit making activity.  In turn, all I ask is that if you have any suggestions of changes/tweaks, or you make amendments yourself within your own organisation, then please feed that back here for others to see.  Just use the comments section below for feedback or change suggestions so that we may take on further developments and acknowledge contributors accordingly.

Once there has been sufficient feedback from both CU Staff and the Learning Technology community on creating version two, I will look to develop a small application/script that can track the selections made and build up the required definition for the user.

Ultimately my hope is that together we can create the first user-driven assessment planning framework!

Comments

  • Simon Wood

    The aspect of peer assessment that particularly interests me is the third point you mention – about learning from the process of assessing. Rather than being a passive process, it becomes an active one, and from the position of assessor a student gains a new perspective on what it is the piece of work could or should achieve. The extension of this – greater peer ‘ownership’ of the assessment process – is to involve students in developing the mark scheme. I think that might be something you could usefully include in your schema?

    • Allan Theophanides

      I totally agree Simon. A ‘student-owned’ assessment process is definitely the most interesting aspect from an Educationalist perspective, however I think with regards Cardiff, that would probably be more CUPAS 3.0 feature! It definitely would be great for Postgraduate students to view their own subject matter from a different perspective as well as being able to understand and dissect the assessment process at a much greater level than they current do as ‘passively assessed’ students. I can see that it would be particularly useful pre-dissertation but given the possible complexities and I do have reservations for trying this at Undergraduate level at this stage.

      A great suggestion and will definitely take it into consideration on further developments.

      We do need to be mindful of the implementation and how far we push this. Part of me can’t help thinking back to this media ‘coup’: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2006/jun/29/highereducation.uk1

    • Allan Theophanides

      At that time back in 2006, as far as I can remember it was a residing no! It was considered bad press by senior management.

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