How to Facilitate Effective Peer Assessment

What is peer assessment?

Peer assessment, also known as peer feedback, is a learning strategy in which students analyze and provide constructive comments on the work of their peers. This type of assessment benefits students in and out of the classroom.

Peer evaluation helps students develop critical thinking and soft skills by providing and receiving feedback from their peers. To provide effective feedback, students must consider course material from a deeper level and assess how their work and the work they are reviewing addresses the learning objectives set out by their professor. Through this process, students are exposed to many perspectives and opinions, broadening their viewpoint and enriching their learning experience. 

Peer evaluation helps students take greater ownership of their learning by taking an active role and engaging in the assessment process. Students consider the various ways to approach an assignment to meet the learning objectives (Cleland & Walton, 2012).

Challenges with Peer Assessment (And how to overcome them)

Student’s may feel reluctant to assess their peers

It is natural for some students to feel unsure about providing direct feedback to their peers. Like anything new, it is crucial to model strong feedback, explain the purpose of peer assessment and how they will benefit from it, and provide check-ins at frequent junctures throughout the semester. Additionally, having students conduct peer assessments anonymously is an effective way to achieve more genuine and constructive input, and it also removes assessment bias in the process. 

Peer assessment loses value when it’s treated as non-essential work 

When peer assessment is implemented without adequate explanation and support, students will often see it as busy, non-essential work. Peer assessment should be implemented like any other form of evaluation and treated with care and importance by professors and students alike. Incorporating online rubrics and clear objective criteria effectively keeps students on track with clear expectations. Additionally, students should be provided with enough time to do thorough and thoughtful work (Sitthiworachart & Joy, 2004). The Kritik team recommends having students conduct four peer assessments per activity; of course, it can deviate based on class size and type of assignment, but this can serve as a baseline. 

Friend-enemy dynamics can negatively impact peer assessment

Peer evaluations can also be impacted by friend-enemy dynamics, resulting in skewed results. There are various options for dealing with this issue. Professors should monitor peer assessments throughout the semester for evaluations that are unnecessarily high or low. These cases can be discussed privately with the student or as a group, if they are more common across the group (Sitthiworachart & Joy, 2007). 

The best way to avoid the friend-enemy dynamic is to model proper assessment and provide clear objectives and a rubric for each activity. Anonymous peer assessment also effectively reduces friend-enemy dynamics as students do not know whose work they are assessing.

If students believe that the evaluation they received is not fair, it’s important to have a system to share their concerns. For example, Kritik has a “Dispute” feature where students can flag an evaluation with a note to their professor for review. 

Five criterions to facilitate effective peer assessment

1. Use a Feedback Rubric

Use a rubric to ensure students provide specific and constructive feedback, rather than high-level praise to their fellow students (Orsmond et al., 2000). An online rubric sets clear expectations and guides students through the assessment process. This guidance will lead to consistent feedback across the class, but will also signal to students what areas the professor would like students to focus on. 

2. Make the feedback process anonymous

By making the feedback process anonymous, students will be more likely to provide genuine and constructive feedback, feel more comfortable doing so, and remove assessment bias. Facilitating anonymous peer assessment can be challenging to coordinate, so using a program like Kritik to streamline the process for both professor and student can be a big help. 

3. Pair students with a diverse range of reviewers

For students to receive the full benefit of the peer feedback process, they should be paired with a diverse range of reviewers. Even in a particular class, this can be achieved by ensuring students are reviewed and review peers with a varying range of abilities. Kritik uses artificial intelligence (AI) to set a grading score for each student based on how well they assess their peers compared to the criteria and calibration set by the professor. The platform uses the grading score to pair students from a range of grading scores. 

4. Feedback on Feedback

The peer assessment process needs to include opportunities for students to improve their evaluative skills. Kritik incorporates three stages of peer assessment: Creation Stage, Evaluation Stage and Feedback Stage. In the Feedback Stage, student will provide feedback on the assessment they receive from their peers based on  how critical and motivational it is. This means, over time, they will develop and build their skills and become better evaluators. 

5. Conduct consistent check-ins

Lastly, professors should check in on students periodically throughout the semester as they would for any other assignment or activity. What does this mean? 

  • Review the importance of peer feedback
  • Go over strong peer feedback examples
  • Conduct peer feedback activities in class to focus on particular areas of improvement
  • Administer a survey to find out what students think about the experience
  • Ask students if they have any challenges with peer assessment in 1:1 office hour meetings
  • Reiterate the social, academic and personal skills students are learning through the process.

Sitthiworachart, J., & Joy, M. (2007). Computer support of effective peer assessment in an undergraduate programming class. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(3), 217-231.

Cleland, J., & Walton, G. (2012). Online peer assessment: helping to facilitate learning through participation. Journal Of Learning Development In Higher Education, (4).

Orsmond, P., Merry, S., & Reiling, K. (2000). The Use of Student Derived Marking Criteria in Peer and Self-assessment. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 25(1), 23-38.

Justin DeMarchi
Content Marketer and Education Consultant