Peer review in higher education has many advantages in terms of both pedagogy and practicality for the teacher. In this article, we will detail the advantages of peer assessment and the good practices to adopt to maximise its effectiveness.
What is peer review?
In an academic setting, peer review involves putting the student in the position of a marker by asking them to critically review and mark the work of other students (their peers).
The pedagogy of this method of assessment is learner-centred. It can take the form of formative feedback to encourage learning progression and/or summative assessment to acknowledge learning.
We often hear about peer review in MOOCs. The main reason why peer assessment is gaining momentum in this field is that there are too many students to be graded by a single dedicated teaching team. But behind this first aspect, peer assessment has many advantages.
If you would like to see examples of how peer review is used, please see our article on peer review use cases.
Benefits and pedagogical advantages of peer review.
Peer review brings many benefits at different levels:
Understanding of the subject and understanding of the evaluation
If the student tends to focus on understanding the subject, peer assessment will allow him/her to position him/herself as a marker and therefore to immerse him/herself in understanding the assessment method. This exercise may lead to a new way of thinking about the next assignment.
Development of soft skills
Peer review requires the student to take a critical and objective view of the work presented to them. As they are not in a senior position, they will be required to provide more detail to justify the marks they receive.
The student who finds out about the notes and the feedback he/she has received will have to listen to the critical comments made about the work he/she has done. This process will lead him/her to accept and take into account the suggestions and remarks if they are relevant although they do not come from the teacher.
Assimilation is enhanced
According to the cone of learning (or Dale's cone), we retain 10% of what we read and 70-90% of what we do and explain.
By positioning the students as evaluators, they will be asked to explain and justify their marks, thus reinforcing their understanding of the course in a very natural way.
Optimisation of time spent on evaluation
While assessing a MCQ on a large number of papers is manageable, it is quite different when assessing case studies on an open question. Even if the mark is constructed according to a scale, relating the work to it involves delving into the vision of each student. The implementation of peer review beforehand allows to see if there is a consensus on certain criteria and thus facilitates the final marking.
Peer review allows forpeer learning. Through the various feedbacks that will be exchanged, students will benefit from the knowledge and vision of others on their own work and will be able to learn with a different approach.
How to implement an effective peer review?
Having seen the advantages, let us now look at the important criteria to be considered in order to maximise the relevance of this type of evaluation.
Define the number of copies / papers to be corrected per student
Is your aim to get students to work on their critical thinking skills? Do you want to use this assessment as part of the final grade? Depending on the answers, you will need to assign one or more assignments per student. If you want to use the students' marking in the final grade, you will need to identify consensus on the different aspects of the scale. It will then be useful to assign a sufficient number of marks per student to ensure that this consensus is consistent, while being careful not to discourage the marker.
Provide an evaluation grid.
It is important not to leave the student teacher in difficulty when faced with what is asked of him/her. It is therefore necessary to guide them by providing a grid explaining point by point how the mark is broken down and how it should be applied.
For more information, we recommend this article: Peer Review Grid: examples and methodology
Make interactions anonymous.
It is hoped that students will focus on the discourse and arguments put forward both for the marker and for the person receiving the mark and comments. In order not to distort the objectivity of each according to affinity, anonymity can be useful.
Define a time to spend on each copy.
To give the student an indication of the level of effort you expect them to put in, you can give an indication of how much time each student should spend on a piece of work. This will give them a benchmark to see if they are doing too much or too little.
Enable qualitative feedback to be provided
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, peer assessment can take the form of formative feedback. This is the whole point of the exercise, as it is through this feedback that students will be able to draw on the suggestions made by others. It is partly through this feedback that they will be able to take a critical look at their own work.
How to arbitrate on the results of a peer review?
The results may differ depending on the results of the assessment. In order to identify the differences in the points of view of the markers, it will be interesting to look at the standard deviations on each of the criteria of the scale. By identifying these points, the teacher will be able to bring his or her own vision to readjust the mark or clarify a specific point.
For the remainder of the renderings where the consensus is there. The teacher can simply review them to validate or not the students' marks and make additional comments if necessary.
It can be difficult to trust students to give a mark and especially to take it into account in the final results. This difficulty in delegating marking is quite understandable for the simple reason that the student is not 'senior' in his or her field. Nevertheless, according to Topping K.J, an educational researcher, a less competent assessor but one who has more time than the teacher can produce an assessment that is as reliable as the teacher's(Topping K J Peer assessement Theory into practice, vol. 48 2009)