With peer assessment and feedback activities, students take an active role in the management of their own learning as they monitor their work and performance through constructive peer-to-peer review and critique.
This section summarizes reports from researchers and instructors who have used peer assessment and feedback activities in different university-level contexts.
Peer assessment/feedback is a form of assessment that considers students as active participants in the learning process, helps instructors monitor students’ progress, and boosts the improvement in students’ work. It consists of students giving feedback to the work of their peers using relevant and common criteria or rubrics, and producing a reviewed and enhanced final product in which the comments received are addressed. Peer assessment/feedback is different in nature than evaluating peer contributions to group work.
It involves a rich communication process through which learners enter into dialogues related to performance and standards, and it is supported by the notion that student-student interaction can lead to enhanced understandings and improved learning experiences (Gibbs & Simpson, 2004; Liu & Carless, 2006). Thus, the foundation for peer assessment/feedback is that it enables students to take an active role in the management of their own learning as they monitor their work using internal and external feedback (Butler & Winne, 1995). Also, by commenting or ranking the work of peers, students not only identify the standards which can then be transferred to their own work, but they also construct an evolving understanding of discipline-specific content matter.
Peer assessment/feedback has been traditionally used in language learning (e.g., Yang, Badger, & Yu, 2006), but it has also been broadly employed in higher education contexts around the globe and across disciplines (e.g., Hamer, Purchase, Lixton-Reilly, & Denny, 2015; Liang & Tsai, 2010). The existing literature on peer assessment/feedback indicates that: a) students are generally able to make reasonably reliable judgments when compared to those of instructors (e.g., Falchikov & Goldfinch, 2000; Hamer, Purchase, Lixton-Reilly, & Denny, 2015; Pare & Joordens, 2008); and b) students generally find the peer assessment/feedback processes fair and honest (e.g., Dochy, Segers, & Sluijsmans, 1999).
Although peer assessment/feedback is often associated with composition courses, instructors have utilized peer assessment/feedback in varied disciplines that include, but are not restricted to, STEM (e.g., Biology, Environmental Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, Computer Sciences), Law, Health Disciplines (e.g., Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacology, Physiotherapy), Management and Human Relations, Business (e.g., Marketing, Administration, Accounting, Finance), Social Sciences (e.g., Geography, Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, History, English), and Fine Arts (e.g., Music).
Reported peer assessment/feedback approaches have been implemented in introductory, intermediate and advanced level courses, as well as in theory, laboratories and clinical classes. Enrolments fluctuate between low (30 students) and high (1000+ students).
The following are some of the benefits and limitations reported in the peer assessment/feedback literature.
- Boosts the role of students from passive to active learners
- Develops students’ evaluative skills
- Enhances students' learning/understanding of subject matter & improves performance in exams and tests
- Exposure to peers' work allows students to better realize the nuances between good and poor written products
- Feedback can rapidly be provided to numerous students
- Formative assessment/feedback helps monitor student learning/progress
- Fosters collaboration among students
- Improves students' writing skills & final products
- Models academic writing process
- Promotes the development of critical thinking/reflection skills
- Reduces marking load for instructors
- Additional pre/briefing time can increase instructors’ workload
- Can elicit unfair/biased results due to friendship/collusion/peer pressure
- Consistency in quality of student feedback
- Dysfunctional group behavior
- Fairness in the assessment process
- Students may not understand that process is similar to formal academic writing
- Students may be reluctant to make judgments regarding their peers
- Time commitment is needed on the part of students
- Useful and constructive peer feedback requires training and experience
"A further practical reason for peer feedback is that students would receive more feedback from peers and more quickly than when academics are providing comments." (Liu & Carless, 2006)
"Even though students felt that peer feedback did not lead to change, their work indicates otherwise." (Rodgers, Horvath, Jung, Fry, Diefes-Dux, & Cardella, 2015)
"Writing gradually developed with significantly better coverage, richness and organization resulting from the online peer assessment activity." (Liang & Tsai, 2010)
"There is evidence that peer feedback enhances student learning as students are actively engaged in articulating evolving understandings of the subject matter." (Falchikov & Goldfinch, 2000)
"Expert markers and peer markers have a tendency to agree on the quality of written pieces being marked." (Pare & Joordens, 2008)
Butler, D., & Winne, P. (1995). Feedback and self-regulated learning: A theoretical synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 65(3), 245-281. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00346543065003245
Dochy, F. J. R. C., Segers, M., & Sluijsmans, D. (1999). The use of self-, peer and co-assessment in higher education: A review. Studies in Higher Education, 24(3), 331-350. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075079912331379935
Falchikov, N., & Goldfinch, J. (2000). Student peer assessment in higher education: A meta-analysis comparing peer and teacher marks. Review of Educational Research, 70(3), 287-322. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00346543070003287
Gibbs, G., & Simpson, C. (2004). Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning. Learning & Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3-31. Retrieved from http://www2.glos.ac.uk/offload/tli/lets/lathe/issue1/issue1.pdf#page=5
Hamer, J., Purchase, H., Luxton-Reilly, A., & Denny, P. (2015). A comparison of peer and tutor feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(1), 151-164. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2014.893418
Liang, J. C., & Tsai, C. C. (2010). Learning through science writing via online peer assessment in a college biology course. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(4), 242-247. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.04.004
Liu, N. F., & Carless, D. (2006). Peer feedback: The learning element of peer assessment. Teaching in Higher education, 11(3), 279-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562510600680582
Paré, D. E., & Joordens, S. (2008). Peering into large lectures: Examining peer and expert mark agreement using peerScholar, an online peer assessment tool. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(6), 526-540. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2008.00290.x
Paulus, T. M. (1999). The effect of peer and teacher feedback on student writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 8(3), 265-289. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1060-3743(99)80117-9
Rodgers, K. J., Horvath, A. K., Jung, H., Fry, A. S., Diefes-Dux, H., & Cardella, M. E. (2015). Students’ perceptions of and responses to teaching assistant and peer feedback. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 9(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1479
Van Zundert, M., Sluijsmans, D., & Van Merriënboer, J. (2010). Effective peer assessment processes: Research findings and future directions. Learning and Instruction, 20(4), 270-279. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2009.08.004
Yang, M., Badger, R., & Yu, Z. (2006). A comparative study of peer and teacher feedback in a Chinese EFL writing class. Journal of Second Language Writing, 15(3), 179-200. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2006.09.004