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Assessing group assignments poses some challenges. For students who are more familiar with being assessed as individuals, the prospect of their grades being reliant on other students can be daunting.
The information provided here has been developed as part of a suite of topics relating to Group assignments. 'Peer assessment' is Topic 12 in that suite.
As with all assessment, it is important that there is a logical alignment of learning objectives, learning tasks and assessment criteria.
Morris & Hayes 1997 - '…peer assessment provides a means of monitoring/measuring the individual's contribution, it does not assess learning outcomes of the group process'
Brown & Knight 1994 (p.57) - '…students watching a presentation by another individual or group of students, once they have in their hands a set of criteria…are, we feel, as competent at evaluating achievement of a performance as almost anyone else'.
Johnston & Miles 2004 (p.751) - '…in encouraging teamwork it is essential that students feel confident that they will be rewarded fairly for their contributions'.
Habeshaw, Gibbs & Habeshaw 1986 (p.103) - '…the difficulty of arriving at a fair mark for individuals is one of the most common reasons for not using group work for assessment purposes despite its many advantages'.
Lejk & Wyvill 2002 (p. 569) - '…secret peer assessment, which does not include a self-assessment element, leads to a more discriminating and fairer assessment than methods which include self-assessment and are performed in the open'.
Earl 1986 (p. 68) - '…an assessment procedure which reflects the collaborative environment in which students will be required to work professionally'.
Cheng & Warren 2000 (p. 245) - '…students are in a unique position to assess their peers…in most cases, entirely inaccessible to their teacher(s)'.
Leach, Neutze & Zepke 2001 (p. 293) - '…adult learners are encouraged to make decisions about and exercise some control over their learning. So, these ideas should also be applied to assessment'.
The assessment of peers by peers may be in the form of a mark contributed by students which a tutor/lecturer adds to or deducts from his/her mark awarded to a group assignment. Perhaps the mark awarded by the tutor/lecturer is adjusted or moderated through reference to student generated marks. In some instances, peers negotiate the distribution of marks from a total allocated pool of marks from the tutor/lecturer. Peers may observe an oral presentation by fellow students and contribute a percentage of the final marks along with the tutor/lecturer. Peer assessment can be anonymous or negotiated, conducted in face to face meetings or online.
There are studies which report on high correlations between students' and lecturers' assessments of undergraduate assignments (e.g. Oldfield & Macalpine 1995) and of student learning improving significantly (e.g. Ballantyne, Hughes and Mylonis 2002). Williams (1992) reports on research conducted with first year students in the B.A. Business Studies degree at Polytechnic of Wales, that students tended to inflate marks when assessing others' work, but self assessed marks tended to align with the lecturer's.
But as Freeman (1995) points out, it is the responsibility of the academic staff in universities to oversee the 'certification process' of graduates. The community expects this certification to be reliable, and so perhaps the self and peer assessment component should be allocated only a minor weighting.
|Can reinforce to students the importance of collaborative tasks||May be used as a device to force collaborative learning|
|Can act as a reward for the extra effort encouraged by peer learning||May encourage conformity in return for good grades|
|Gives students valuable opportunity to develop peer review skills||Tools for assessing process are less refined than for assessing product|
|Can help students give objective feedback to peers||Traditionally assessment is individually based, and collaboration may be seen as cheating|
|Students are better placed than tutors / lecturers to assess their group assignment process, as much group assignment work occurs outside the classroom||May encourage surface learning,'playing the system' to ensure good grades|
|Assists students see the alignment of criteria and assessment||Students may not be confident or comfortable assessing friends|
|Can shift student focus away from knowledge content to the learning process||Needs a self assessment component also in order to assist learning|
|Alerts students that different team members play different roles||The 'free rider' may cause assessment based on personality rather than objective criteria|
|Can help develop negotiation skills||Tends to be more summative than formative|
|May reduce the potential for plagiarism / collusion in a group assignment environment||An apparent contradiction - we expect students to work together, but then to rate each other|
|Can allow students to participate in deciding assessment criteria||Can be seen as tokenistic|
|Reinforces that assessment helps learning||Students agree at the beginning of the assignment to share marks no matter what|
|Develops self-learning abilities||Academics are more skilled at assessment of learning|
|Is based on the student centred approach to learning||Students may not be competent at establishing objective assessment criteria|
|Helps students identify strengths and weaknesses in a formative way||May encourage collusion|
|Peer review abilities are an important employability skill||Extroverted students can be marked higher and quieter students marked down|
* sources: Boud, Cohen & Sampson (1999); Freeman (1995); Habeshaw, Gibbs & Habeshaw (1986); Johnston & Miles (2004); Oldfield & McAlpine (1995)
Listen to Muriel Wells (2 MB) (Faculty of Education) discuss why she doesn't use peer assessment formally in her group assignments.
Assessment of others is an important skill. You should take time to answer these questions, forcing yourself to be objective and unbiased. The individual responses will be kept confidential.
For each member of the group, apart from yourself, award a mark out of 5 for your groupmate's level of participation in each of the following tasks:
(A) Literature search
N.B. The group can add or substitute other tasks if they were important ones for your project.
Use the following grading scale and enter your responses in the table at the bottom of the page.
1 - didn't contribute in this way
|(A) Literature search
(B) Analysing the literature
(C) Writing a report
(D) The group presentation
Listen to John Annison (4 MB) (Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences) describe how he designs his peer assessment approach in unit HDS301 - The Effective Practitioner.
Listen to John Annison (2 MB) (Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences) describe how he introduces students to peer assessment early in semester then has them more formally involved later.
Listen to Brian Doig (4 MB) (Faculty of Education) discuss his views on peer assessment.
Michaelson, 'Team-based learning: Two Methods for Calculating Peer Evaluation Scores', http://teambasedlearning.apsc.ubc.ca/NDTL/d/TBL%20-%202%20methods_peer%20eval%20scores.pdf
Lincoln University, New Zealand, 'Guide to Best Practice: Group Work', http://oldlearn.lincoln.ac.nz/tls//groupwork/
University of Technology, Sydney, 'Peer Assessment', http://www.une.edu.au/gamanual/staff/07_peer_assessment.pdf
Ballantyne, R., Hughes, K. & Mylonis, A. 2002 'Developing procedures for implementing peer assessment in large classes using an action research process', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 27 (5), 427-441.
Boud, D. 1989 'The role of self-assessment in student grading', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 14 (1) , 20-30.
Boud, D., Cohen, R. & Sampson, J. 1999 'Peer learning and assessment', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 24 (4), 413-426.
Brown, S & Knight, P. 1994 Assessing Learners in Higher Education, Kogan Page, London.
Cheng, W. & Warren, M. 2000 'Making a difference: using peers to assess individual students' contributions to a group project', Teaching in Higher Education, 5 (2), 243-255.
Conway, R. & Kember, D.1993 'Peer assessment of an individual's contribution to a group project', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 18 (1), 45-57.
Earl, S. 1986 'Staff and peer assessment - measuring an individual's contribution to a group project' Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 11 (1), 60-69.
Freeman, M. 1995 'Peer assessment by groups of group work', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 20 (3), 289-299.
Goldfinch, J 1994 'Further developments in peer assessment of group projects', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 19 (1), 29-35.
Goldfinch, J. & Raeside, R. 1990 'Development of a peer assessment technique for obtaining individual marks on a group project', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 15 (3), 210-231.
Gupta, M. 2004 ' Enhancing student performance through cooperative learning in physical sciences', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 29 (1), 63-71.
Habeshaw, S, Gibbs, G.& Habeshaw, T. 1986, 53 Interesting Ways to Assess Your Students, Technical and Educational Services, Bristol.
Johnston, L. & Miles, L. 2004 'Assessing contributions to group assignments', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 29 (6), 751-768.
Leach, L., Neutze, G. & Zepke, N. 2001 'Assessment and empowerment: some critical questions', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 26 (4), 293-310.
Lejk, M., Wyvill, M. & Farrow, S. 1996 'A survey of methods of deriving individual grades from group assessments', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 21 (3), 267-278.
Lejk, M. & Wyvill, M. 2002 'Peer assessment of contributions to a group project: student attitudes to holistic and category-based approaches', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 27 (6), 561-576.
Morris, R. & Hayes, C. 1997 'Small group work: Are group assignments a legitimate form of assessment?' in R. Pospisil & L. Willcoxson (eds) Learning Through Teaching, Proceedings of the 6th Annual Teaching and Learning Forum, Murdoch University, February 1997: Murdoch University, http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1997/morris.html (viewed 12 July 2007).
Oldfield, K. & Macalpine, M. 1995 'Peer and self-assessment at tertiary level- an experiential report', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 20 (1), 125 -133.
Williams, E. 1992 'Student attitudes towards approaches to learning and assessment', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 17 (1), 45-58.
Woodward, H. 1998 'Reflective journals and portfolios: learning through assessment', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 23 (4), 415-423.