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Peer-assessment & self-evaluation

This resource introduces self-evaluation and peer-assessment and describes how they can be used to benefit your learning.

What is self-evaluation?

Self-evaluation requires you to reflect on your own work and judge how well you have performed in relation to the assessment criteria. Self-evaluation is commonly used as a supplement to your teacher’s assessment of your work, but in some cases it may replace it.

The focus is not necessarily on having you generate your own grades, but rather to provide opportunities for you to be able to identify what constitutes a good (or poor) piece of work. In order to self-evaluate successfully, you must have an understanding of the assessment criteria and what makes a piece of good or poor work. Reflection is the key to self-evaluation as you must be able to consider your own performance and identify the strengths, weaknesses, and areas that require improvement (Ross 2006).

What is peer-assessment?

A peer-assessment (also known as a peer review) involves sharing your work with your peers who offer feedback and suggestions for improvement. You will also be asked to comment on and judge the work of your peers.

Peer-assessment is conducted using a marking criteria or rubric provided by your lecturer or perhaps one you have developed yourself. It is important to feel comfortable and trust one another in order to provide honest, objective and constructive feedback.

 

How will a peer-assessment actually improve my work?

The benefits of engaging in peer-assessment are two-fold. The feedback you receive on your own work will point out its strengths and weaknesses, and most likely highlight areas where things could be altered or improved (Brown & Glasner 2000). Perhaps more importantly though, the opportunity to review someone else’s work according to the allocated marking criteria will hone your own understanding of what is actually required to produce quality work.

 

Writing a peer-assessment

When providing feedback to a peer, try to be as objective, specific and constructive as possible. Begin by focusing on the positive before moving on to what needs to be improved. The difference between helpful and unhelpful reviews is outlined below.

Unhelpful reviews are:

  • unspecific – not justified and not easily translated into specific improvements
  • unbalanced – either contain too much praise, or too much criticism
  • disrespectful – directed at the writer rather than the content
  • aggressive – make the reader feel ‘attacked'.

The example comment below is unbalanced: it only provides negative, relatively unspecific comments. It would be more helpful if line numbers and potential suggestions for improvement were provided.

Example

“More needs to be written about your experiences with exercise. Also, the theoretic model and experimental model need to be explained so that reader knows clearly what is being studied”

 

Helpful reviews are:

  • constructive – include explanation and examples for improvements
  • specific – include examples
  • thorough – detailed and focused on material
  • balanced – highlight strengths and weaknesses
  • respectful – considerate of the reviewee’s feelings

The example comment below is much more balanced. It begins positively, and the criticism is framed in terms of specific advice for improvement.

Example

“The background information is very clear (i.e. why exercise is used, when and what it is good for). The actual background section is quite short – maybe it could help just to have a sentence explaining…, perhaps referencing another paper that describes this phenomenon. Maybe you could expand a little on "the relevance of social ecological model" that you introduce in section 3. This would then tie in better with the next paragraph.”

 

Receiving peer-assessment

Receiving feedback may be an activity that sits outside of your comfort zone, particularly if a reviewer is very critical of your work. Take some time between reading your reviews and responding. This is important because it will give you some time to gather your thoughts and think about the comments in an objective manner. Reviews will vary in quality, so you must be able to critically assess the feedback you have received. If you disagree with the peer-assessment, don’t dismiss the comment completely, rather ask yourself if other readers feel the same way. Remember, your goal is to make your work an enjoyable experience for the reader.

Types of peer-assessments & self-evaluation

Peer-assessments and self-evaluations take many forms. You could be asked to use self-evaluation in the form of a reflective exercise, such as a learning journal, or by assessing how well you have met the assessment criteria in more traditional tasks such as essays. The format could also be a feedback questionnaire attached to a piece of coursework. Self-evaluations and peer-assessments could both be used in a stand-alone context or in conjunction with each other.

Why are peer-assessment & self-evaluation useful?

Self-evaluation and peer-assessment hone your understanding of standards of practice and develop your ability to make judgements about your own performance. This means that you are not always relying on external evaluation, such as your tutor’s opinion (Falchikov & Goldfinch 2000). Self and peer assessment can also:

  • improve your quality of learning
  • empower you to think for yourself and learn from your work
  • help you to become more autonomous, responsible and involved in your learning
  • help you to critically analyse work done by yourself or others rather than simply see a mark
  • help clarify assessment criteria
  • identify issues you may not be aware of
  • provide an opportunity to gain a wider range of feedback
  • highlight that mistakes are actually opportunities for learning rather than failures
  • develop transferable skills, such as communication, analysis and argument
  • encourage you to become an independent learner.

Further resources

References

  • Brown, S & Glasner, A (eds) 2000, Assessment Matters in Higher Education: Choosing and Using Diverse Approaches, Buckingham, The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press, 2000.
  • Falchikov, N & Goldfinch, J 2000, ‘Student peer assessment in higher education: A meta-analysis comparing peer and teacher marks’, Review of Educational Research, vol. 70, pp. 287-322.
  • Ross, J 2006, ‘The reliability, validity and utility of self-assessment. Practical Assessment’, Research and Evaluation, vol.11, no.10, pp. 1-13.
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