How to Address Ineffective Feedback in Peer Assessment

As instructors incorporate peer assessment in their courses to bridge the transition from in-person learning to online and hybrid learning experiences, it’s critical to guide students to make the best of this opportunity. Peer assessment may not come easily to all students and is a skill that should be developed and honed throughout one’s academic and professional experience. That is where the role of an instructor is vital as they can prepare for the complications and challenges of peer assessment before introducing it in their course.

Peer assessment encourages student engagement with their peers and increases accountability while reducing the workload of educators.

Here’s what we will be covering in this article:

  • What is Peer Assessment?
  • 4 Types of Ineffective Peer Assessment
  • 5 Examples of Ineffective Feedback

Two female students writing in classroom

What is Peer Assessment?

Peer assessment is a process wherein peers assess each others’ work and provide feedback that can help them improve the quality of their work. In this method of assessment, the evaluators and the students being assessed share a comparable status while a higher authority typically determines criteria and guidelines for the assessment. This ensures standardization of assessment procedures. When peers provide feedback at various stages of a work in progress, it is called formative peer assessment, while summative peer assessment refers to feedback received after the completion of an assignment or task. Peer assessments are widely used in classrooms, research environments, and workplaces.

Peer assessment has become an increasingly popular subject over the last three decades as it comes with many benefits to academic performance (Double, McGrane, Hopfenback, 2020). It augments engagement with the learning process, allows for varied and creative feedback, helps learners develop critical acumen, and hones interpersonal skills. Kritik streamlines this experience for students and instructors alike. When students act as reviewers or assessors, they perform the role of an instructor to their peers which improves their meta-cognitive skills. Through peer assessment, students learn by teaching, a 21st-century learning concept that engages students more deeply in their learning.


4 Types of Ineffective Peer Assessment:

Peer assessment is an effective learning tool; however, complications may arise with students providing feedback to one another.  More specifically, students who have difficulty processing critical feedback and feel vulnerable showing their work to their peers may decide to address these feelings by providing ineffective online feedback and evaluation to their peers. If a student offers insensitive or poor-quality peer feedback, it can damage their confidence and strain peer relationships (Topping, 2017).

Here are four types of ineffective feedback that result in poor peer assessment: 

1. “Revenge” Peer Assessment

When students assess their peers' work, they may intentionally give poor grades in certain instances. There are many reasons why this may occur, including friction or adversity outside the classroom. It’s best to address this situation directly with the student to see if there are any personal reasons behind their decision to present unjustified negative feedback. If they are doing it to spite another student who critiqued their work, a conversation addressing the vulnerability of peer assessment, the dangers of an ineffective feedback loop, and reminders of the classroom being a safe space can go a long way.

2. “Favoritism” Peer Assessment

Students providing unjustified positive grades to their friends also appear on the list of ineffective feedback examples. While this may be done in good spirits, it harms the learning experience for the student and the entire class. Peer assessment is a collaborative experience, and when done correctly, promises tremendous possibilities of providing a more enriching and meaningful learning experience while developing critical thinking skills. Reminding students that giving undeserved high grades to their friends will do more harm than good is an excellent place to start addressing the issue of effective vs ineffective feedback.

3. “Careless” Peer Assessment

In some cases, students are careless and give everyone the same grade without adequately assessing the work. In this situation, instructors can remind students of the goal and reason for the exercise. Co-creating rubrics, creating buy-in early on, and introducing engaging activities  that teach students the dynamics of effective vs ineffective feedback are instrumental in ensuring that students put thought and care into their assessments.

Pro Tip: Kritik penalizes students who give unhelpful feedback or grades that don’t reflect the quality of work. Each student gets a Grading Power that reflects how well they perform when doing peer evaluations which affects their peers’ final score.

4. “Directionless” Peer Assessment

Peer assessment is a skill that takes time to develop. Students may struggle to provide strong assessments because of a lack of knowledge of assessment criteria or unfamiliarity with assessment techniques (Karaca, 2009). Instructors must provide detailed notes and guidelines on their expectations, outline types of ineffective feedback, support students with a clear rubric, and provide timely feedback to let them know the effectiveness of their evaluations.

5 Examples of Ineffective Feedback + Alternatives

For peer assessment to be truly effective, it is crucial for the feedback to be insightful, critical, and constructive. However, misguided peer assessment may often lead to peers providing feedback that fails to benefit the recipients. Here are some ineffective feedback examples that help students avoid common pitfalls:

1. Vague and Generalized Feedback

The tendency to provide feedback lacking specificity is one of the prime examples of ineffective feedback. Let us consider effective vs ineffective feedback for an essay, for instance. Comments like ‘great job!’, ‘excellent work!’ or ‘needs improvement’ without elaboration do not tell the recipient exactly which areas of the essay were appreciated by their peers and how they can further improve their work. 

Feedback must be lucid and precise, and should offer specific suggestions (say on language, perspectives, background reading, etc) that help the recipient enhance their essay. Here’s an example:

Student peer evaluation with specific feedback

2. Unduly Harsh Criticism

While providing honest feedback is essential for peer assessment to be effective, the peer must maintain a respectful and empathetic tone while delivering feedback. Unduly harsh or demeaning criticism may do more harm than good. In a creative writing assignment, for example, feedback that says ‘You clearly have no talent for writing. Just give up already!’ is an instance of ineffective feedback. 

More effective feedback could state something like ‘Your story has potential but it could benefit further from stronger character development.’ Students have to remember that the aim of peer assessment is to motivate peers to improve and not to demoralize or break them down.Here’s an example:

Student peer evaluation with motivational feedback

3. Absence of Actionable Suggestions

A major difference between effective and ineffective feedback is the presence of actionable suggestions. Meaningful feedback goes beyond the simple identification of problems. It must help the recipient work on the problem by suggesting alternative approaches, specific resources, or practical recommendations. 

Instead of simply writing ‘The essay lacks structure,’ effective feedback would have suggestions like ‘Consider beginning your essay with a clear introduction that provides an overview of your principal argument and sets the tone for the essay’ or ‘Consider using subheadings or bullet points to help the reader locate the key points in your essay.’ Here’s an example:

Student peer evaluation with actionable feedback

4. Incomprehension of Evaluation Criteria in Feedback

Usually peer assessment is guided by certain predetermined criteria. Providing feedback that does not align with the evaluation criteria often leads to directionless and ineffective feedback. For instance, feedback like ‘You should consider enriching your vocabulary’ for a conceptual assignment in Mathematics or Economics may not be effective feedback since the aim of the assignment in such cases is usually not to test vocabulary. It is essential to follow the rubrics created by the instructor in order to avoid this form of ineffective feedback. 

The following rubrics will provide a clear idea of the evaluation criteria of the assignment and allow for structured and effective feedback.  Here’s an example:

Rubric with four clear criteria and four levels

5. Personal Attacks

The feedback that takes the form of personal criticism or insults can heavily undermine the benefits of peer assessment. It may lead to a hostile classroom environment and hinder growth. Feedback such as ‘Your presentation was terrible as you have no public speaking skills and your voice is annoying,’ is an example of ineffective feedback since it attacks the presenter without providing constructive criticism of the presentation itself. 

It is important to remember that peer assessment should focus on constructive feedback that supports learning and growth. By avoiding personal attacks and maintaining a respectful and professional approach, peer reviewers can create a safe, supportive, and truly collaborative environment.

Pro Tip: Kritik is committed to fostering a safe space during peer assessment. Accordingly, all peer evaluations via Kritik are anonymous which prevents instances of personal attacks.

Use Kritik to Ensure Effective Peer Feedback! 

Kritik allows students to engage in assessing the peer feedback they receive and creates a 360-degree feedback loop that enables effective peer assessment. By positioning peer assessment as a learning opportunity and facilitating classroom discussions on its benefits, instructors can ensure a successful implementation.

If you are curious to see how Kritik works, set up your free account and schedule the first assignment for your students.


Boon, S. I. (2015). The role of training in improving peer assessment skills amongst year six pupils in primary school writing: an action research enquiry. Education 3-13, 43(6), 666-682.

Double, K. S., McGrane, J. A., & Hopfenbeck, T. N. (2020). The impact of peer assessment on academic performance: A meta-analysis of control group studies. Educational Psychology Review, 32, 481–509. 

Karaca, E. (2009). An evaluation of teacher trainee's opinions of the peer assessment in terms of some variables. World Applied Sciences Journal, 6(1), 123-128.

Min, H. T. (2006). The effects of trained peer review on EFL students’ revision types and writing quality. Journal of second language writing, 15(2), 118-141.

Rotsaert, T., Panadero, E., & Schellens, T. (2018). Anonymity as an instructional scaffold in peer assessment: its effects on peer feedback quality and evolution in students’ perceptions about peer assessment skills. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 33(1), 75-99.

Topping, K. (2017). Peer assessment: Learning by judging and discussing the work of other learners. Interdisciplinary Education and Psychology, 1(1), 1-17.

Topping, K. (2018). Using peer assessment to inspire reflection and learning. Routledge.

Justin DeMarchi
Content Marketer and Education Consultant