What is it?
In peer evaluation (also called peer review or peer feedback or peer instruction) give feedback on each other’s work, another group’s work, or, if working in a group, other group-members’ contribution to a project. This allows students to build confidence in understanding and applying criteria, or even negotiating their own prior to the evaluation activity. These activities are formative and grades are not given in order to reduce the focus on grading and scores.
Peer evaluation activities can take place at any time, with almost any piece of work, including exams. The process can be digital or in class. There are a variety of digital technologies to facilitate this, including wikis, blogs, discussion forums, Moodle workshop, Peermark on Turnitin, Peerwise, Pebblepad, etc. CTEL can help to suggest suitable tools or help you to set them up.
Why would I use it?
- Students can learn more from noticing each other’s strengths and weaknesses than either being told by the teacher, which can feed forward into judging their own work. Feedback provided by peers may also be more accessible and understandable than that provided by teachers (Falchikov 2004). Eric Mazur, eminent researcher on peer instruction describes it below:
- It increases the sense of community building and establishing social networks, especially for first year students and allows a communication line to peers for those who cannot attend campus. It therefore suits blended learning and Kings’ fully online courses.
- It emphasises the idea that academic work is delivered to a real audience, simulating the process of research environments and the workplace (Liu and Carless, 2006). Framing it as ‘peer review’ for postgraduates could help increase engagement in the process.
- It can save teacher time in giving feedback in formative situations. This can facilitate a shift towards more formative assessment without increasing teacher workload.
Known Issues …
- It is important that students don’t see peer marking as primarily a means of reducing teacher workload and that the above benefits are emphasised to them.
- Practice with understanding and applying criteria and ways of giving constructive feedback is vital, otherwise students’ feedback on their peers’ work is less likely to be useful.
- It is important that feedback is reciprocal and a constructive feedback culture is facilitated. Students can easily become disillusioned if they spend time on feedback and receive poor or minimal feedback in return.
How has it been used?
There are myriad examples of research, interventions and case studies on using peer evaluation in all disciplines.
- Raoul Mulder from the University of Melbourne talks about engaging students in the process.
- KCL case study: A War Studies module in SSPP combines both peer formative feedback on an essay draft AND Moodle discussion forums.
- Mark Pullman presents a case study on how peer evaluation has been used in Music.
- Imperial College London: This is an example of how an instructor explains how he will use peer instruction in his module:
Here are some common peer evaluation activities:
- Two-stage Assignments: Providing feedback on draft assignments
- Moodle Workshop is a good way to facilitate peer feedback activities. It allows for anonymity or random allocation of pairs.
- Collaborative Writing – see this resource for how to use wikis and blogs
- Interview panel (viva style): Select 3-4 students to grade and give feedback on one person’s presentation and these ‘panels’ are rotated. Everyone gets an opportunity to give and receive feedback.
- Poster presentations: Students walk around and ask questions to each other about their posters. This allows for small audiences, is authentic, and can be a nice scaffold for more anxious students.
- OSCE style practice or summative presentations and can be practised in small break-out groups in seminars (Brazeau et al, 2002).
- Record presentations for feedback: If students are happy to do so, presentations (and clinical skills practice) can be recorded, put online and students can watch and grade them in their own time (See Using video for self assessment). This reduces pressure to make decisions and judgments are more likely to be objective. Students who are crippled by performing in front of an audience might prefer this method of assessment. Consider the quality of sound and video recordings however.
- Group work: Evaluating peers’ contributions to group work in order to counter social loafing
In group work, students and teacher often complain about students dominating group work, while some feel they do not need to put in as much effort. Awarding individual marks for contribution can help this, but somewhat defeats the object of true collaborative group work and this does not usually happen in authentic work and research situations.
A solution is to provide students an anonymous online page to evaluate the contribution of their peers’ contribution. This allows students the opportunity, especially in large classes where teacher supervision of group work is more difficult, to express concerns with peers, issues arising in allocating roles, or even their own problems such as extra curricula responsibilities which are preventing them form contributing. The teacher can then decide how to intervene. The students’ evaluation of their peers can be used as part of the group (or individual) grade.
- Peer evaluation on presentations:
KCL’s Hannah Dickson, Joel Harvey and Nigel Blackwood recently published a study conducted in IoPPN on peer feedback in oral presentations. Students from one cohort took part in a peer review of their presentations on a piece of clinical work they had undertaken. The control group did not take part in the peer review exercise. Results showed that students who did take part in the peer review post-presentation achieved higher mean grades in their next summative presentation than the cohort who did not. Read their article here:
Anne Crook of Oxford Learning Institute (see page 63 of the HEA feedback toolkit resource) suggests a way to utilise peer feedback in presentations:
- Each student in the class is given a marking criteria sheet (as used by the lecturers) and are talked through each of the criteria at the start of the session
- Each student is given two ‘post-it’ notes of different colours.
- Using the marking criteria, each student writes down one good feature of the presentation on one of the coloured notelets and one ‘weakness’ onto the other notelet; the ‘weakness’ comment has to be qualified by a suggestion of how that aspect of the presentation could be improved (note: the names of the student providing the feedback are not put onto the notelets)
- At the end of each presentation, the audience is given two minutes to complete their feedback; the lecturer collects the notelets, keeping the coloured notelets separate. A quick skim through the notes is made by the lecturer to ensure all feedback is ‘appropriate’. The notelets are then given to the student who has just given the presentation.
- KEATS Discussion forums:
Discussion forums can be used in variety of ways. The most common peer activity is when students ask questions and advice from each other about an assignment. A more formalised method of using forums is for students to upload a short section of their work to a forum to create a thread and students comment on that work. This works best when a small number of students are allocated to a group to comment on each other’s work. It is easy to set up groups in KEATS forums, (see CTEL’s help page) and students can manually enrol themselves or teachers can pre-allocate groups.