Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Peer-Assessment and Self-Assessment

I'm now on Chapter 5 of our holiday reading book How to give Effective Feedback to your Students.  This chapter deals with peer and self assessment.  It also addresses how using feedback from teachers does not come naturally to all students and how we can help students to use both external feedback (teacher and peer) and internal feedback (self).  Obviously when new concepts or skills are being introduced teacher feedback that describes the students' performances and give suggestions for improvement will be more important, but as the students become more confident with the concepts or skills self-assessment should be come increasingly more important.

Self-assessment can increase the students' interest in feedback because they have ownership of it.  Research suggests that self-assessment is more powerful for learning than peer-assessment as students are monitoring, evaluating and planning their work with the learning outcome in mind.  Often it's a good idea to involve students in developing the rubrics, as these are easier and more fun for the students to use - often because teacher written rubrics often don't use the same language as students do.  When students write their own rubrics they have the assessment criteria in mind while they work and the feedback will later be more effective as it will compare their work with the criteria they have written.

Self-assessment an also be used as a way of looking at test scores.  Often students just want to know what grade they have, yet if students are aware of different reasons why answers can be wrong, this will help them to determine what they need to do to get a better score on the next test.  Susan M. Brookhart describes the following reasons for making errors on tests:

  • Typographical errors (students know the answer but don't mark the paper correctly)
  • Careless mistakes (students should have known the answer but perhaps read the question too quickly or missed reading an important word, or perhaps they made an error in calculation)
  • Misconceptions (students are mistaken in their understanding)
  • Lack of knowledge (students don't know the answer)
If students look at their returned test papers and are given time to review their own work and to ask themselves about the reason why they got some questions incorrect this can help them decide what they need to do about it.  If students notice a pattern in their errors they can be specific in their plans to address these - do they need to study a strategy or a concept?

Using peer-assessment in a classroom can contribute to an environment that values feedback and constructive criticism.  Being involved in assessing another student's work also means students are practicing and applying the criteria for good work.  Students need to know several ground rules for effective peer-assessment, for example comparing the work with the rubric, talking about the work and not about the person and describing what is good about the work and suggesting what is missing or what could be done better as opposed to judging the work.

Often class presentations are made to an audience, so members of the class who are part of the audience can use a rubric to record their views of the quality of the presentation.  Students can then review these peer-assessments and feedback to the assessors what was the most helpful piece of feedback they received and based on this they can plan what they want to do differently for their next presentation.

As mentioned before feedback from each assignment should inform the work on the next one.  By the time students are at the end of a unit or involved in a summative assessment they should be at the top of their learning curve and should be able to see how the work they have done previously has helped them to reach that point.  Here is the time for students to make connections between the feedback they have received along the way and the improvement this has made to their work.

Photo Credit:  IKBLC Group Study 11 by UBC Library  AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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