What are some strategies for digital peer assessment & feedback?

Peer Assessment Tools: a range of platforms that allow learners to critically reflect on, and perhaps suggest grades for, the learning of their peers.

Tools typically enable students to:

  • Critique the work of others and provide feedback on a rubric
  • Compare their own work to the work of their peers
  • Provide formative feedback to peers for assignment development/improvement
  • Apply marking criteria for a class assignment

Why Peer Assessment?

Peer Assessment can serve as a valuable method of formative feedback (Dochy et al., 2006) – that is, feedback that is provided to students as they are learning, e.g. while they are working on an assignment, or as they are developing/forming ideas.

Peer assessment requires that students take on a variety of roles: author, reader, critic, and the criticized (Purchase & Hamer, 2017). These positions tend to support students in developing a range of skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication (Gielen et al, 2011; Mulder et al, 2014; Van Den Berg et al. 2006)

Grange & Havemann (2017) suggest that peer assessment offers students the benefit of formative feedback without increasing instructor workload. For example, it is oftentimes not possible for one instructor to read many students essays multiple times throughout the drafting process to provide regular, targeted feedback. Yet with peer assessment approaches and tools, this becomes possible under the instructor’s guidance.

Guidelines and Best Practices for Peer Assessment

Consider the following tips from the University of Bristol:

  • Clarify the various stages of the workflow: such as deadlines for submission and completing reviews
  • Clarify the monitoring procedures that will place along the way. Students can be monitored for participation, engagement, and quality of contributions.
  • Provide info on the pedagogical value of the exercise – why is it being included as a component of the course
  • Emphasize failure to complete tasks as required will affect other members of the group
  • Grant students time to familiarize themselves with the criteria before providing feedback. Students will require guidance on how to assess based on a rubric and how to write effective feedback.
  • Introduce students to the platform. If a peer assessment tool is being used, it’s helpful to give students an orientation to how the platform works.

Peer Assessment Tools

Various technologies support peer assessment activities in the classroom. For a select list of various technologies, visit Western’s eLearning Toolkit

Generally, these types of tools support the following activities:

  • Electronic submission of student work
  • Provision of criteria for evaluation of submitted work
  • Distribution of anonymized student work to one or more peers
  • Self-evaluation by the student of their own work (optional)
  • Tailored permissions for users to see the grades and comments assigned by their peers
  • Provision for commented feedback and mark allocation

Faculty Presenters Share their Strategies

Here’s a look at two Western faculty members using Peer Assessment in their courses:

Nicole Campbell, Peergrade

Peergrade is an online platform that enables students to give constructive and effective feedback to one another anonymously.

Dr. Campbell uses Peergrade in her 4th year capstone course and a critical appraisal assignment. Students are assigned a peer-reviewed article to appraise. In their appraisal they must include 4 claims (highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the article) with evidence and rationale.

Students submit one claim to Peergrade to get peer feedback prior to submitting their assignment to Dr. Campbell. Through Peergrade, feedback opens “live” one week prior to the deadline and must be completed by the deadline. The Peergrade platform matches students up as the submit their own work so that they can review the work of their peers (the “live” function of the tool). Students must evaluate each others work based on a rubric provided by Dr. Campbell and include a written justification.

Derek McLachlin, ComPAIR

Dr. McLachin uses ComPAIR – a peer evaluation platform based on pairwise comparisons between student’s anonymized work.

  1. Students upload their work to OWL
  2. Through the ComPAIR tool, students compare the work provided by their peers and select the better answer based on provided criteria. They also provide written feedback for their peers to receive.
  3. Students then reflect on their own work and the written feedback provided by their peers.
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