The missing element to group work: Peer assessment

Posted by: Rebekha Naim, L&T Group & School of Media and Communication, Design and Social Context College, RMIT.

I highly recommend the practice of students grading each other’s work. Peer assessment seems to transform learners. The process triggers critical thinking, it deepens their knowledge of the subject and improves their core skills (ACSF, 2008: 1).

I tried a peer assessment activity in my Teamwork space a few weeks ago with great results. Students had been working in small teams to complete an exercise on lighting for a short film. I incorporated this activity into their team assessment. Students conducted the pre-production activities during class and away from class using Facebook, email and a wiki page in myRMIT Studies (Blackboard).

The student teams observed each other beyond what I could as their teacher, as members of the teams were in the best position to assess process skills like communication. Also, as the students knew that they would be grading each other later, there was a greater sense of accountability at work in comparison to similar tasks I have run in past years.

My students had to be explicit about skills like critical thinking and giving and receiving feedback from peers so I prepared them for this. Also, any changes to my assessment practices at RMIT University had to be guided by our assessment policy and the AQF.  The process had to be designed in a way that was clear, relating to students’ needs and linking to course and graduate outcomes. 

Students graded each other using an assessment rubric tool. The Media and Communication TAFE School where I teach uses these to grade competency units, so I had the students model the same practice. The rubric was developed at the start of the semester so they were familiar with the content and understood the different performance levels. In line with industry practice, they conducted the assessment face to face and gave each other feedback. They were honest with each other and the feedback given was insightful and critical. They seemed to be mindful of each other’s feelings and I encouraged each student in the group to give meaningful comments. They seemed to really want to help each other to perform better next time, which was also a pivotal course outcome.

Here is the assessment rubric the students used. They filled it in as a team, one completed rubric for each student in the group. One performance level of each rubric criteria was circled and a general written comment provided.

The addition of a self-review process helped students to articulate any issues they had with the peer assessment and also supported the learning. Things students were not comfortable to say about their own performance or the performance of their peers in the Teamwork task were able to be addressed in the self-review. Also, if students disagreed with the peer assessment of their performance, they were able to voice this in their self-review.

If you have any insight into peer assessing or would like to know more, please contact me (rebekha.naim@rmit.edu.au) or share your thoughts with others through the comments. Looking forward to hearing if you have tried peer assessment!

References

Australian Core Skills Framework, 2008. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Retrieved from http://www.deewr.gov.au/SKILLS/PROGRAMS/LITANDNUM/ACSF/CORESKILLS/Pages/Overview.aspx May 22, 2012.

Australian Qualifications Framework, 2011. Council for the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment. Retrieved from www.aqf.edu.au May 22, 2012.

RMIT University, Assessment Policy 7.32.1.1. Retrieved from http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=det2rlnje0ay May 22, 2012.

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