Ultimately the goal of any university course is for students to be able to evaluate their own and others' work. The more time students spend on higher-level abilities like analysing and evaluating, the better they will get at assessment. One approach to getting students involved in assessment is by having them develop their own assignment questions. If students are concerned with the subject's assessment they will be encouraged to engage in their subjects in deeper and more meaningful ways.
Self assessment generally supplements rather than replaces teacher assessment. The defining characteristic of self-assessment is the involvement of the students in identifying standards and/or criteria to apply to their work, and making judgements about the extent to which they have met these criteria and standards. This form of assessment is commonly a supplement to teacher assessment of students, but in some cases it may replace it.
An ideal resource for those interested in involving students in taking responsibility for making judgements about their own learning is David Boud’s (1986) "Implementing Student Self Assessment". Boud argues that students see evaluating his or her own work as an important skill to which universities rarely contribute. Boud provides 6 case studies of the application of self-assessment to undergraduate courses.
Peer assessment, in which students evaluate and provide feedback on each others' work, has a vital role to play in formative assessment. It can also be used as a component in a summative assessment package.
Peer assessment develops the ability of students to make independent judgements by involving them in commenting on and judging other students' work. It is commonly a part of group work in which a variety of assessment methods are undertaken as a group assignment to develop students' teamwork skills and/or enable students to undertake larger tasks than could be done by an individual.
One of the desirable outcomes of education should be an increased ability in the learner to make independent judgements of their own and others' work. Peer and self-assessment exercises are seen as means by which these general skills can be developed and practised. A peer rating format can encourage a greater sense of involvement and responsibility, establish a clearer framework and promote excellence, direct attention to skills and learning and provide increased feedback (Weaver and Cotrell, 1986).
In terms of summative assessment, studies have found student ratings of their colleagues to be both reliable and valid. Orpen (1982) found no difference between lecturer and student ratings of assignments in terms of average ratings, variations in ratings, agreement in ratings or relationship between ratings. Arnold et al. (1981) reported that peer ratings of medical students were internally consistent, unbiased and valid. Other studies suggest there is variation according to factors such as age of the student (Falchikov, 1986).
Reports of the types of assessment where peer assessment is used for summative purposes include essay writing, clinical skills, speeches and oral presentations, architectural designs, interpersonal skills, photography and small group activities (Kane and Crawford, 1989). In all cases, the contribution to the overall assessment result is small (10-30%).
The second of the two examples of Peer Assessment forms attached is used to determine an individual's contribution to a group's activity. For more details see Assessing Group Work.
- Helps students to become more autonomous, responsible and involved.
- Encourages students to critically analyse work done by others, rather than simply seeing a mark.
- Helps clarify assessment criteria.
- Gives students a wider range of feedback.
- More closely parallels possible career situations where a group makes a judgement.
- Reduces the marking load on the lecturer.
- Several groups can be run at once as not all groups require the lecturer's presence.
- Students may lack the ability to evaluate each other.
- Students may not take it seriously, allowing friendships, entertainment value, etc. to influence their marking.
- Students may not like peer marking because of the possibility of being discriminated against, being misunderstood, etc.
- Without lecturer intervention, students may misinform each other.