Peer assessment

In my previous post Learning from each other I discussed the idea of peer learning, where children are encouraged to teach each other. While exploring peer learning I also raised the question of peer assessment, and wondered whether some teachers might think this would be a bridge too far. Here are some further thoughts...

Peer assessment is clearly a more complex proposition than peer learning. In peer learning, children all know something and can impart these ideas to each other through sharing, collaboration and team working. In peer assessment, a certain amount of additional prior knowledge is required, and where assessment is based on a specific set of criteria that knowledge would need to be domain relevant. To be fair, most of the forms of peer assessment witnessed in a classroom are completely informal and don't rely on specific criteria.

Those who formally assess keep in mind what is good, acceptable and poor in terms of performance or knowledge reproduction. Is it therefore fair or reasonable for children to be expected to act as peer assessors? Some would argue no, that the children are there to learn, and are not equipped with the skills and knowledge required to assess the learning of their peers. The issues of authenticity and validity arise, and there are questions over the negative psychological impact of having to give and receive feedback about poor performance from friends.

Yet some might argue that if children are knowledgeable enough to peer teach, they should also be in a good position to ascertain if their peers have sufficiently learnt the content. Moreover, many teachers extol the benefits of peer assessment, claiming that those who assess the learning of others are also able to more deeply learn the processes that underlie learning, and also become more aware of what makes a good piece of work. Being exposed to this process, they become stronger learners as a result. Clearly there are several benefits as well as risks in peer assessment and learning. So - peer assessment for children - is it a good or a bad idea?

Photo source: Flickr

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Peer assessment by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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