Tag Archives: groupwork

Peer and self-assessment

Students in discussion at RMIT.

Copyright © RMIT University. Photographer: Margund Sallowsky.

Posted by: Dr Alex Radloff, Higher Education Consultant.

Peer and self-assessment use has been growing in Higher Education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as has the use of technology to support these forms of assessment. Peer-assessment refers to the process of assessing the quality of the products or outcomes of the learning of peers. Self-assessment refers to the process of assessing the quality of the products or outcomes of learning, or the act of learning, by the learner. Both kinds of assessment can be used as part of formative and summative assessment, either as ‘stand alone’, or in conjunction with teacher generated assessment. Academic staff who have used peer and self assessment report that:

  • The skills are a requirement of many professions/jobs and are valued by potential employers.
  • Using peer and/or self assessment skills demystifies the assessment process and makes it more accessible to learners.
  • Students are provided with more frequent and detailed/richer feedback from more sources.
  • Students develop analytical and critical skills needed to identify and use criteria and standards relevant to work in their discipline/profession. Learners engage more deeply /thoughtfully in learning and assessment tasks.
  • The skills help students to increase their metacognitive awareness and control of learning including planning, monitoring and evaluating learning.

Academic staff who have used peer and self assessment also report:

  • Resistance by students. Resistance is generally based on a lack of trust in the validity (does the assessment assess the stated or intended outcome?) and fairness of peer or self-assessment; a view that assessment is the responsibility of teachers and should only be undertaken by teachers, not learners; concerns about the capacity of learners to assess accurately; and concerns about possible accreditation requirements.
  • Quality issues related to the reliability of the assessment (how consistent assessment outcomes are over time) when based on the judgments of learners and their ability to interpret and apply criteria and standards appropriately.
  • Over-reliance on peer and/or self-assessment, especially for summative assessment purposes, to the exclusion of other forms of assessment can be an issue.
  • Learners need training/support to understand and use peer and self-assessment effectively.
  • The implementation of peer and/or self-assessment especially for large groups of learners, may require access to and the management of, specific technology and software.

Careful design of peer and self-assessment can address the problems and issues identified above. The steps in designing peer and self-assessment follow the typical assessment cycle, namely Purpose of assessment; Selection of assessment tasks; Setting criteria; Administering assessment; Scoring the assessment; Grading the assessment; and Feedback. To increase the effectiveness and efficiency of peer and self-assessment:

  • Make clear the rationale, purpose and expectations of the planned approach with students and colleagues. Address common concerns concerning validity, reliability, fairness and trust.
  • Involve students in developing the assessment criteria. Consider involving students in the design of the assessment activities as well, if appropriate.
  • Make clear how peer and/or self-assessment will be used in conjunction with teacher-assessment, if it is to contribute to a final grade.
  • Provide systematic training and practice for students in using the assessment criteria and standards with examples of products representing different levels of performance.
  • Give students clear, written instructions and guidelines on the assessment process including timelines, deadlines, and any consequences (rewards and/or penalties) associated with the process.
  • If using technology for assessment, ensure that it works and that students know how to access and use it and what to do if they need help.
  • Check how the assessment process is working and intervene if needed to provide feedback and coaching.
  • Keep records of assessment outcomes and monitor how peer and self-assessment compares to teacher assessment over time.
  • Review the outcomes in terms of learning, performance and satisfaction from both the students’ and the teacher’s perspectives, and revise design and implementation if needed.
  • Collaborate with colleagues to discuss different strategies and to share experiences.

Want to know more?

Past posts on peer assessment and peer learning can be accessed by clicking here or on the tags to the right. The following is a short survey of the academic literature relevant to the topic:

Bell, A., Mladenovic, R., & Price, M. (2012). Students’ perceptions of the usefulness of marking guides, grade descriptors and annotated exemplars. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, DOI:10.1080/02602938.2012.714738

Examines students’ views of the usefulness of exemplars, grade descriptors and marking criteria for reflection and learning, or for understanding the assessment task.

O’Donovan, B., Price, M., & Rust, C. (2008). Developing student understanding of assessment standards: A nested hierarchy of approaches. Teaching in Higher Education, 13, 205–217.

Discusses the importance of involving students in the assessment process and describes different ways to help students understand assessment requirements.

Higher Education Academy. Self and peer assessment. Post Graduate Certificate in Professional Development.http://www.glyndwr.ac.uk/cpd/pgcpd/assessment_and_giving_feedback/self_and_peer_assessment/assessment_issues.html

What are your views on peer assessment and peer learning? Share them in the comments section below!

Native or immigrant – Exploring foreign territory in online learning

Post by: Meredith Seaman

Image by Ed Yourdon. Source: Image from Flickr Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

There is sometimes a perception that ALL tertiary students have grown up with technology and are natives of the online environment, and that teaching staff, well, they just have to catch up.

I beg to differ…

Working with staff as they prepare for teaching, I come across a vast range of different styles and views in relation to using newer educational technologies, some keen, proficient and eager to experiment and others overwhelmed, nervous or disinterested.

A recent study found that there was significant diversity in both staff and students in terms of technical experiences and proficiency in Australia universities. Students were not always ‘digital natives’ and academics were not always ‘immigrants’ as has sometimes been claimed. Given my experience, it doesn’t surprise me that they found great diversity across ages and groups, and a wide range of perceptions about the advantages of using technology for learning and teaching. Even if we don’t buy into the immigrant/native analogy, both students and staff can at times feel foreign and lost. As reflective journals, lecture capture, web conferencing, twitter, blogs and video (some explored in recent blog posts to TTTT) become more common, more students and colleagues will be exposed to an increasing range of technologies in learning and teaching. So how can we support better learning and teaching through technology and enable both colleagues and students from a range of backgrounds and technical proficiencies to flourish?

My personal understanding of what it might be like to be in ‘foreign territory’ in an educational online context, comes from my own recent experience as a distance education student. Thrown in the deep end with two other students, who had had very minimal exposure to Web 2.0 technologies but were keen to learn, we were asked to use an emerging educational technology to develop and present an assignment about education and technology. A fellow team member suggested a wiki and we were off. In our case, the technical aspects (setting up and navigating wikispaces which was very new to the other students), and visual and instructional design aspects of the task completely took over from the content and intended learning outcomes of the assignment in our interaction as a group. On top of additional time constraints which we faced as mature aged students with young families and/or in full time employment, the challenges of working and being assessed as a group, the assignment almost derailed. We ended up using email to communicate outside of the wiki and got back on track. The difficulties weren’t because wikispaces was difficult to use, but because of the challenges in sustaining good group work and communication while interacting online in an unstructured, unfamiliar space, in this case with others we hadn’t even met.

I learnt a lot from this activity, and apply it in my work with teaching staff. Like Clare suggests in her recent post, there needs to be a clear sense of purpose as to why to adopt technology for a particular tasks, and clear attention paid to the motivation for students (to foster the kind of willingness and ‘good attitude’ which is so important to successful learning). For our assignment the benefit that we should learn about wikis for education to inform our role as educators was clear, yet it still felt like an unnecessarily add on to an assessment task, and very time consuming in itself. While technology can support communication between peers for distance students, the dry unfamiliar territory of the wiki was not ideal for this in our case. We tended to develop content separately, and then publish, rather than truly collaborate and develop ideas relevant to the assignment as a group. The superficial design and technical aspects unfortunately took over. Other tools, like chat or skype or google docs (or even email which we ended up resorting to) would perhaps have been better for timely communication and collaboration, and would have supported the development of the wiki. But the solution to such challenges isn’t using other tools or technology training (though time and support to learn new technologies is terribly important), but in good teaching practice and design.

So what did I learn about good teaching practice and design using educational technologies from that experience?

That we should:

  • provide time for students to play and explore technologies in advance of the ‘meat’ of the assignment work
  • provide clear structure/scaffolding to support how we were expected to work with the online tools (and most importantly AS A GROUP if that’s a key aspect of the task)
  • make an explicit link should be between the learning outcomes, assessment criteria, and the process of developing new technical skills

and, the benefits of being:

  • required to work in a group with different levels of ability, and with different individual strengths and weaknesses
  • encouraged to explore new technologies
  • able to experience the technology from a student perspective as an educator

__________________________

More on recent research into ‘immigrants and natives’ and attitudes about technology in learning and teaching:

Educating the Net Generation: Implications for Learning and Teaching in Australian Universities
Open University research explodes myth of ‘digital native’
The impact of web-based lecture technologies on current and future practices in learning and teaching
Teaching, technology and educational design: the architecture of productive learning environments

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