The perceived added value of peer marking in formative assessment: a cross-disciplinary study Tom Bartlett ENCAP Paul Crosthwaite ENCAP Helen Jones BIOSI Henrietta Standley BIOSI
Formative assessment ‘Assessment that is specifically intended to generate feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning’ Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2006. Studies in Higher Education 31, 199-218.
Formative assessment • clarifies what good performance is • facilitates development of self- assessment • informs students about their learning • encourages teacher and peer dialogue • increases motivation and self-esteem • provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance • aids teachers in shaping their teaching • Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2006; see Sadler, 1998. Assessment in Education 5, 77-84.
Peer assessment ‘Assessment of students by other students, both formative reviews to provide feedback and summative grading’ Bostock 2001. Higher Education Academy <http://www.palatine.ac.uk/files/994.pdf>.
Peer assessment • gives a sense of ownership of the assessment process • encourages students to develop as autonomous learners • treats assessment as part of learning • enables practice of transferable skills • promotes metacognition • encourages deep rather than surface learning • Bostock 2001. Higher Education Academy <http://www.palatine.ac.uk/files/994.pdf>.
Methodology • Students undertake a formative assessment linked to a module. • Assess one another’s work following clear criteria provided by staff. • Complete a questionnaire on the process: • 10 Likert scale responses • Open questions • Judgement of quality of paper marked
Data collection • Medicine • Optional formative exam sat under exam conditions • Compulsory multiple choice and short answer questions • Compulsory peer marking of all answers • Language • Optional formative exam sat under exam conditions • Compulsory short answer questions • Optional peer marking
Q1.Before carrying out this peer assessment exercise, I anticipated that I would find it educationally valuable. • Both groups anticipated that the exercise would be beneficial.
Q7. Reflecting on this exercise, I found it to be of educational value. • This benefit was validated afterwards – more strongly in medicine than language
Q2. Knowing that this exercise was a formative assessment, I was happy for my work to be marked by another student. • Both groups were happy for their formative assessment scripts to be marked by peers.
Q8. If this assessment had been summative, I would have been happy for my work to be marked by another student. • Both groups disliked the idea of summative assessments being marked by peers - medical students particularly strongly.
Q3. 95% of language students and 96% of medical students strongly agreed or agreed that the exercise had increased their understanding of the assessment criteria. However -
Q4. Based on the marking criteria, I was confident that the marks I awarded for the open question section of the test were accurate and reflected the quality of the answer. • Language students were more confident than medical students when peer assessing short questions with objective answers.
Conclusion based on the Likert scale analysis The students felt they had benefited from the exercise. But -
A comparison of the Likert responses with the open comments • The majority of positive comments were based around the benefit of the formative assessment. • The majority of negative comments centred on the peer marking process: • doubts about the reliability of peer assessment • wanted staff to go through answers instead • preferred to mark their own papers • anxieties about confidentiality (medics)
Possible explanations for students’ distrust of peer assessment • Anxiety about the responsibility of marking a peer’s work (albeit anonymously). • Discomfort at the prospect of another student viewing their work. • The marks and feedback they would receive from other students might be substandard or misleading. • The exercise places additional demands on the students’ time, for which they will receive little tangible reward.
Possible explanations for exceptionally poor interest from English Literature students • Essays place greater intellectual demands on markers. • Writing essays may be perceived by students to be particularly self-revealing. • Comparatively solitary nature of study may foster an atmosphere in which students see themselves as autonomous learners working towards individual goals.
Some positive comments were made regarding the peer assessment • Seeing different ways of approaching a question. • Interacting with other students and discussing and agreeing on marks.
Overall conclusions • Despite implicit gain from the exercise as a whole, the students perceived that: • The formative assessment would improve their future performance. • The peer marking element was incidental, of little benefit, and merely a way for ‘staff to avoid extra marking loads’.
Recommendations for improving student attitudes towards peer assessment Introduce it from the start of year 1. Engage students and staff with the process and its benefits. Consider marking the peer feedback. Use codes to preserve anonymity. Staff moderation of a sample of scripts. Adapted from Ballantyne et al., 2002. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education27, 427-441