Peer Learning

Peer learning can occur formally or informally among students when they work in teams or are asked to collaborate on group projects. Such approaches are active learning strategies that help students learn from and with each other. For more on group work specifically, click here.

Peer Assessment

Peer assessment, also known as peer review, refers specifically to when students give each other feedback on the quality of their work. Peer assessment can be used to help other students improve on their work, but research suggests that learning how to give high-quality feedback helps students improve their own work (Li, Liu & Steckelberg, 2010). 

Research shows that a perennial concern among students is receiving meaningful and timely feedback (e.g., Nicol et al., 2014; Mulder et. al. 2014). By offering students the structured opportunity to provide and receive feedback, students learn how to differentiate between levels of quality of work, how to communicate feedback, and how to evaluate the significance of feedback they have received. This will also prepare students to give and receive feedback in the context of their academic and professional lives (Nicol et al., 2014). In larger classes, peer assessment offers a practical benefit:  students can get more detailed or frequent feedback from one other than they would be able to from the instructors alone. 

Examples of peer assessment include students reading and commenting on each others’ essays, blog posts or video presentations. In the context of group work, students may evaluate their peers’ contributions as well as their own to the assignment. 

Decorative image

Developing Peer Assessment Practices and Guidelines

Instructing students in how to review effectively and constructively is as important as enumerating the criteria students should be assessing. Think about and be clear with the students about the feedback process and how it relates to the assignment. Will peer assessment take place in the classroom or on their own time? Should the feedback be written or face-to-face (or both)? How will students use the feedback? Is it part of a review or revision process? Consider whether the feedback partners work together once or multiple times across an entire assignment or period of time

For some projects, you may consider implementing an anonymous peer review process, which some studies have found to better foster student learning -- but also can be perceived by students as less fair than identified feedback (Lin, 2018). For group work, or assignments that require more sustained peer feedback, creating longer-lasting classroom partnerships might make sense. 

Providing students with models of exemplary work often helps demystify the process and can establish a standard as students start to review their peers’ work. You can review this example in class to provide further clarity and direction as they begin to provide feedback to their peers. Similarly, modeling the review procedure can directly minimize the potential qualitative variance between student reviews. For instance, you may want to hold a draft workshop in class about how to give constructive feedback. 

Sharing a rubric with evaluation criteria and standards of performance clearly listed may be an effective means to focus student attention on the most essential components of the project. See Example rubric for an essay-based assignment.

Grading Peer Reviews

In order to incentivize students to provide thorough feedback, you can consider whether to grade peer assessment. If peer assessment is to be evaluated, clear guidelines and grading criteria can be helpful and ensure transparency and fairness to students. 

 

Performance Standards

   

Evaluation Criteria

Excellent

Competent

Needs Improvement

Critical evaluation

Paper comprehensively examines concepts in context, fully weighing evidence from multiple perspectives  

Paper examines concepts in context, presents some evidence from multiple perspectives  

Paper fails to examine concepts in context and presents little to no evidence, or evidence from only one perspective

Clarity of writing

Main arguments  are written clearly and flow naturally from introduction to conclusion 

Main arguments are  understandable and in a logical order   

Main arguments are hard to understand or the flow from topic to topic doesn't make logical sense

*Adapted from McGill (2020) Designing Peer Assessment Assignments

 

References and Further Reading

Li, Liu & Steckelberg (2010). Assessor or Assessee: How Student Learning Improves by Giving and Receiving Peer Feedback

Lin, G. (2018). Anonymous versus identified peer assessment via a Facebook-based learning application: Effects on quality of peer feedback, perceived learning, perceived fairness, and attitude toward the system. Computers and Education, 116, 81-92.

Nichol, David et al. (2014). Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: a peer review perspective. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39, 102-122.

Mulder, Raoul A. et al. (2014). Peer review in higher education: Student perceptions before and after participation. Active Learning in Higher Education, 15.2, 157-171.

Topping, K.J. & Ehly, S.W. (2001). Peer-Assisted Learning: A Framework for Consultation. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 12, 113-132.

Topping, K.J. et al. (2017). Effective Peer Learning: From Principles to Practical Implementation. Educational Psychology, 25, 631-645.

Wagner, R. (2018). Peer Review Reviewed. Inside Higher Ed. URL: Making Student Peer Review Effective Classroom Technique Opinion

[Updated February 2021]