Pedagogy Focus: Peer assessment

In the latest instalment of our Pedagogy Focus series, we look at peer assessment and its benefits and drawbacks

Tes Editorial

Pedagogy: What are the benefits of peer assessment?

What is peer assessment?

Peer assessment involves students in the assessment process, with them taking on the role of teacher by reviewing work of other students against a set criteria. 

It is a key assessment-for-learning strategy that can help teachers quickly determine the level of knowledge and understanding of pupils.

What are the benefits?

Peer assessment can help to secure and develop a pupil’s understanding of how they are assessed and how particular marks and grades are awarded. 

By assessing others’ work, they are able to critically reflect on tasks and evaluate their own learning while also exploring how their peers have approached and prepared their answer(s). 

It can provide pupils with examples of good practice and therefore model how an answer might be formed or might look. 

If combined with more formal teacher assessment, peer assessment can provide students with instant feedback and help to reduce the teacher's marking load.  

What are the drawbacks?

Peer assessment relies on the capabilities of the student assessing the work and how well they understand the topic and criteria by which the work is to be judged. 

If students are not given a clear and specific framework for assessing answers, feedback will be vague or often unhelpful. 

There is also the danger that pupils will not take this form of assessment seriously (knowing that any marks or feedback are not technically supported by the teacher) or will be friendly and overly positive in their approach to marking others’ work, rather than being constructive and highlighting errors. 

How is it used in lessons?

Most commonly, peer assessment takes the following forms:

  • Pupils swap responses or answers and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of the work they have marked using the criteria and guidelines given to them.
  • Pupils mark different pieces of work anonymously or in groups. This helps to eliminate issues of bias and, particularly in group peer assessment, facilitates debate about what makes a piece of work successful.
  • Pupils offer verbal feedback to others’ responses, presentations or thoughts on a topic. If asked to support and justify this feedback, pupils have to show a deeper understanding and really engage with the assessment criteria.

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