What is Peer Assessment?

peer assessment

Peer assessment is a powerful tool instructors can utilize to help students learn, analyze, and engage more deeply in their understanding of course content. This is done by allowing the student to take responsibility for assessing fellow students’ work against criteria set by the instructor. Doing so allows the student the opportunity to think deeply about the criteria in order to serve as the assessor and provide feedback to their peers. Beyond simply understanding the presented material, properly implemented peer assessment can be a catalyst for more effective student learning as students apply newly acquired knowledge to the assessment process. 

What are the benefits of peer assessment?

There are multiple benefits associated with peer assessment. Students receive more frequent feedback from peers instead of waiting for the instructor to assess all assignments. Students are also able to compare their own approach to a task or assignment with that of their fellow peers. In doing so, they can assess their own knowledge against that of their classmates. This exchange of information from multiple viewpoints enables the student to think critically about a topic in order to increase understanding. It also promotes better student motivation and engagement by allowing the student to have ownership over the process.

Beyond cognition, this kind of assessment offers opportunities to develop real-world skills that will extend outside the classroom. With appropriate guidance, students learn how to assess and critique information, make criterion-referenced judgements, and provide effective and valuable feedback to others. This naturally leads to the critical analysis and reflection required to promote deeper learning. These are important communication skills that are important in today’s collaborative environment. 

What is peer assessment used for? 

Peer assessment can be utilized across many different kinds of assignments, courses and disciplines. It can be used to assess individual assignments, or it can be used to assess contributions through team-based learning. Assessment can be done openly to promote group or whole-class discussion, or it can be done anonymously to promote more honest feedback. This assessment can be a cumulative activity at the end of a large assignment, or it can be broken into smaller parts to provide feedback at various stages within the context of the larger assignment. It can also be as simple as exchanging notes in class to help uncover gaps or discrepancies in learning. 

Written assignments lend themselves well to peer assessment. However, this form of assessment can be easily adapted for use with any number of assignments, such as presentations, visual displays, discussion boards, and/or performances. It is suitable for use in-person as well as virtually, and the assessment can be formative or summative. [1]

How can I help students progress in peer assessment? 

Like anything else, critical assessment of others' work is a learned skill that should be practiced with an eye toward improvement. In order for this method to be effective, the instructor must have clear and concise goals and criteria. Rubrics should be used and must clearly define the tasks for the learner and reviewer. These rubrics should be introduced in such a way that allows the learner to apply the rubric to the assignment as well as the assessment. Instructors should model how to provide appropriate feedback and criticism prior to students beginning the peer assessment process. 

It can be difficult for instructors to relinquish control to allow students to provide feedback. However, feedback from peers can bridge the gap between instructor feedback and student perception in order to improve skills. This process emphasizes that mistakes provide opportunities to learn and grow so that assessment is better seen as a part of learning such as using Kritik in a way that encourages continued and ongoing learning through scaffolded assignments. The result can often be a more sophisticated understanding of the content as well as the learning process. [2]


[1] https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources/assessment-evaluation/peer-assessment

[2] https://www.reading.ac.uk/engageinassessment/peer-and-self-assessment/peer-assessment/eia-peer-assessment.aspx

Philip Tran
Education Researcher