As a future teacher, I can’t think of anything better than sitting at my desk, relaxing, and watching my students mark their partner’s work so I don’t have to do it – Doesn’t that sound like the life?
Unfortunately, this is the bad rep that teachers can get when using peer tools to evaluate their students’ learning. However, it is so much more than this belief! Let’s explore!
Now this isn’t the type of peer assessment we all used to do as kids… you know, when we would write a test, pass our papers to the person beside us, they would mark it, through marking your partner’s paper we would painstakingly realize all of the mistakes we made, we would get it back, and our teacher would record our mark. The type of peer assessment I’m discussing is used strictly for Assessment as Learning (AaL) and is used for the purpose of feedback. To be able to effectively evaluate their peers, your students themselves must first understand the general principles of assessment, your success criteria, and the different levels of quality. The best way to do this is to create a rubric together as a class.
I remember doing peer assessment when I was in elementary school. The hardest part was always trying to figure out what kind of comments to write. I would always revert to writing simply, “good job!” I realize now that this never provided them with any real feedback. I might as well have said nice socks. You should require your students to be as descriptive as they can with their feedback to their peers so they will internalize it and improve on the next time. Also, you can challenge your students to call you out every time that you yourself tell them that they did a “good job” without any specific feedback. This will make both you and your students better!
Peer assessment works well for multiple reasons. It activates students to teach one another, therefore empowering them to be active learners. Through thinking through what their partner needs to do to be successful, the students themselves internalize the success criteria, increasing their ability to meet and exceed its expectations. However, I think the biggest asset it provides is the creation of an honest and raw learning environment. In Grade 12 English class I struggled to understand the use of literary devices. My teacher told me that I needed to read more in depth about the use of symbolism in books but at the time, it really didn’t mean anything to me. It wasn’t until the person I sat beside told me that I ‘sucked at life because I was unable to recognize the symbolism of the green light across the water in The Great Gatsby’ that pushed me to improve. While this isn’t the feedback we’re shooting for in our classrooms, sometimes it is this honest peer assessment that teachers cannot verbalize that pushes students to become better and really get to work in the classroom. I know it did for me. I think it especially works for classes where students don’t know how other students are performing. It can be a really big motivator to improve their grades if they have to share their work with other students.
This video has some great strategies on how to get your students assessing each other:
However, as beneficial as peer assessment is there are still some negatives to using this method. Here is a list of some more advantages as well as a list of disadvantages.
But all of this can be perfected with experience and hard work.
As important as getting peer feedback is, you won’t get good feedback unless you ask good questions. Here are some teacher resources that I’ve found to be successful at this:
- “Two Stars & a Wish” (my personal favourite)
But remember, making your own with your class is the best way to go!!!
As Drake, Reid, & Kolohon state,
“When the student no longer needs a teacher, the real work has been done.” (p. 89)
Drake, S., & Kolohon, W. (2014). Interweaving curriculum and classroom assessment: Engaging the 21st century learner. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.