Peer and Self-Assessment (self-evaluation)
‘… self-assessment by pupils, far from being a luxury, is in fact an essential component of formative assessment.’
Black and Wiliam (1998)
'The unexamined life is not worth living’.
Attributed to Socrates
One of the ways in which students can understand the quality of their work is by evaluating that work themselves and against their peers. For peer and self-assessment to be successful students need to have a clear understanding of what they should look for in their own and in their peers work. Rubrics, checklists or performance profiles can form part of this guidance. As students become more familiar with their learning they can develop their own criteria.
Where can this be applied?
Reflective practice is a key element of many fields of study as well as in teaching itself. Practitioners and students should be able to understand their performance through monitoring, be able to identify where they are performing well and able to identify areas where action may be necessary. Self-evaluation is an important part of our students’ development and in enhancing the quality of our courses too.
What are the benefits?
Students who use self-assessment:
- recognise that learning is associated with a very positive kind of difficulty, which increases motivation rather than destroying it
- experience an increase in self-esteem
- experience an improvement in their learning because they come to know how they learn rather than just what they learn
- are able to recognise what they have learned (perhaps threshold concepts) and what is still to learn
- plan more effectively to improve performance.
Teachers who encourage students to self-assess:
- see the responsibility for learning shifting from them to their students
- recognise an increase in student motivation and enthusiasm for learning and a corresponding decrease in behavioural problems
- are able to use feedback from their students about how they learn to shape lessons to individual and group needs rather than teaching to the mythical class as whole.
- addresses the inherent risk of unfairness of awarding one mark to a group of students.
- prompts students to reflect and assess their own abilities, as well of those of their teammates, helping them learn from each other
- encourages students to engage with the marking criteria
- can provide for more timely feedback
How to make it work
Peer and self-assessment can be used in both formative and summative assessments. The very important role of the lecturer involves:
- sharing with students the success criteria for each assessment activity
- ensuring that students understand the success criteria
- explicitly teaching students how to apply those criteria to their own work
- providing students with feedback to help them improve; and
- helping students to set learning targets to achieve that improvement.
This section contains some example of how peer and self-assessment can be implemented. The emphasis in this paper is not on formal assessment which is dealt with in a separate guide. This list is indicative and not intended to be exhaustive.
- Self-assessment against goals (course generated or professional standards). The lecturer can set specific goals for the student. These may be professional standards or key skills, for example. Students can be encouraged to self-assess their performance at the start of a module and justify their judgement. As the module progresses the students can be asked to return to their self-assessment and update it until they have reached the appropriate level. Students can be supported in developing a personal action plan to achieve their targets.
- Ipsative assessment. Assessment of progress against previous performance is measured as opposed to the more common criterion-based assessment.
- Peer assessment to aid understanding. Students can be engaged in designing the assessment criteria for their own work. By assessing each other’s work they are exposed to good practice and poor practice in the work of others and are given feedback on their own work. The evaluation of other’s work and the feedback from those others causes the student to focus on good and poor practice in their own work and they can again be invited to develop a personal action plan. Such formative assessments are typically conducted using a peer review template designed to manage not just the content of the exchange, but also the process itself.
- Peer assessment of the contribution of others to group work. Although not without problems asking students to conduct a peer review of the group work, including their own performance, can help to establish expectations and to reward good performance as well as penalise poor performance in the team activity. Students can be given or asked to develop, with guidance, the criteria for group assessment. Each student will mark each team member against the criteria and the resulting mark can be used to adjust the overall teamwork for each student according to their contribution. A number of formula exist to moderate the effects of high and low marking, adjustment can be made to part or all of the group task.
- Reflective assessment. Another simple way to encourage students to assess their own performance is to ask for a reflective piece of work from them. To produce this work students can be asked to maintain a learning journal or other reflective log. The journal form the basis of the students ‘summary’ of their experience. Some research has provided evidence of decreases in reports of plagiarism where reflective assessment is used (Bowman & Addyman, 2014). In their study, three writing development interventions were trialled with successive cohorts of postgraduate nursing students engaged in writing a 4000 word reflective piece. The interventions included the use of example texts to make requirements more explicit, formative peer feedback on draft texts and increased dialogue between staff and students relating to expectations.
Technologies to support peer and self-assessment
1. Peer assessment
Peermark is a tool within Turnitin. The tool allows students to read, review and evaluate papers submitted by peers as controlled by their tutor. Tutors can also decide whether these reviews are anonymous or attributed.
See Turnitin’s Instructoir Training materials for more details http://turnitin.com/en_us/training/instructor-training/peermark-overview.
There is also a video overview on youtube which shows a student view of the process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL32ovtZiKc
WebPA is an open source web-based system for managing peer assessment. The tool provides for both peer and self-assessment. Marks are calculated based on the group mark and an individual’s contribution based on their peers judgement.
An ePortfolio allows for reflective assessment where students can reflect on their experience as well as the work they have produced and for formative assessment where students can assess their own skills, knowledge and understanding. Used in this way students could receive feedback identifying their strengths and areas for development. Planning to achieve improvements and then checking back on progress is also a feature of portfolio thinking.
2.2. Journal keeping
A learning journal is a collection of notes, observations, thoughts and other relevant materials built up over a period of time. Maintaining a learning journal enhances the learning through the process of thinking and writing about experiences. The journal provides for reflection around the learning.
Journals can take a number of forms. Using an online blog tool, such as within eBridge, PebblePad, Blogger or WordPress allow for recording notes at any time. The journal could be private, public or shared with only authorised readers.
2.3. Other tools
Evernote (http:/www.evernote.com) is an app which is freely available for a range of devices with automatic syncing between them. Evernote is built around notes. Notes are stored in notebooks. Notes and notebooks can be shared. Using this feature it is easy to create template notes for students to use in self-evaluation. Notes can also be used to link to other evidence. These completed templates can be reviewed by the lecturer. Other features such as voice notes make collecting and sharing evaluations and feedback a simple activity.
The free version of evernote does limit monthly uploads and this limit can erasily be exceeded with lots of images and audio notes.
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Bowman, M. & Addyman B. (2014). Improving the quality of academic reflective writing in Nursing: a comparison of three different interventions. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education No. 7 Available at: http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/ojs/index.php?journal=jldhe&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=241&path%5B%5D=pdf [Accessed 10/12/2014]
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