A growing number of pedagogical and practical arguments
support the use of peer-assessment in higher education (e.g. Falchikov 1995; Magin & Helmore 2001; and see Hughes 2001 for an overview of potential benefits). For example, one study
showed many Australian graduates to consider evaluating other people’s work to be an important graduate skill, but dido not believe their university helped them to acquire such skills (Boud & Falchikov 1989). Classes where students mark a colleague’s assignment may initiate skills of self-evaluation and reflection leading to a greater understanding of tutor requirements (Stefani 1994). Classes to support peer-assessment can be interactive sessions with detailed reflection on recently completed
assignments, leading to improved understanding. Such assessment necessitates an open marking system (so each assessor knows
what is required and how to improve the work in front of them) and provides an opportunity to see standards set, and mistakes made, by peers. Hopefully, student assessors gain an ability to ‘stand back’ from their own work to assess objectively.The process also provides a rapid way for tutors to assess large volumes of student work and provide detailed feedback.
Therefore, peer-assessment can lead to interesting, interactive lessons and less marking for staff.
Many types of assessments lend themselves to peerassessment: presentations, reports, essay plans, calculations,
annotated bibliographies, practical work, poster displays,
portfolios and exhibitions (Race 1999). Even so, there is good reason to use highly objective assessments with straightforward answers (e.g. calculations) rather than assessments with relatively low objectivity, such as essays. Even apparently ‘obvious’ answers can generate useful debate, particularly when results are
interpreted. For example, mean values may be presented to a
number of decimal places well beyond the accuracy of the
equipment, leading to debate about the use of means...
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