Using self and peer feedback as assessments for learning


  • How do you give self and peer assessments?
    • Setting a learning goal clarifies for students what they need to master (e.g., My goal is to understand the difference between mean and median and know when they should be used).
    • Students assess peers' as well as their own progress towards the learning goal. For example, students complete assignments individually and then swap assignments, grade one another, and provide feedback.
    • Students take more responsibility and are more aware of their learning.
  • In a study, students who engaged in self and peer assessments did better than students who engaged in discussions.
    • Students given the opportunity to do peer and self assessments outperformed students in a control group in three assessments, with low-achievers benefiting most. Low achievers behaved more like high-achievers, studying more effectively.
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Self and peer assessments can be used as formative assessments. They support students in developing a growth mindset by helping them understand where they are in their learning path, what they're working towards, how far along they are, and what they need to do to get there. Additionally, self and peer assessments can take a bit of the work load off of teachers, as they can be difficult to provide formative feedback on a regular basis. Let's hear more from Jo Boaler.

Professor Jo Boaler, Mathematics Education Expert, Stanford University: So assessment for learning makes use of diagnostic feedback, and its main focus is on helping students become aware of where they are and where they should be in ways that help them bridge the gap. That awareness is often built through self and peer assessment. Teachers set mathematical goals for students, not lists of chapter titles or content, but details of the important ideas and how they're linked, and they can be given a statement that is very clear and communicate the point of the work that they're working on.

For example, students could have the statement, “I've understood the difference between mean and median and know when they should be used.” It very clearly tells them the point to that lesson or piece of work.

The students then assess their or their peer's work against the statements, and, as time goes one, something really important happens. Students start to take more responsibility for their learning, as they become aware of what they should be learning and what the important ideas are.

In studies of self assessment in action, researchers have found that students are very perceptive about their own understanding, and they don't over or underestimate it. So a really interesting study on this was done by Barbara White and John Fredrickson. They conducted a research study with twelve classes of students learning physics.

Students were divided into two groups. There was a control and an experimental group. Both groups were taught force and motion. But the control group spent portions of each lesson discussing the work, while the experimental group spent the same amount of time engaging in peer and self-assessment. And the results were dramatic. The experimental group outperformed the control group on three different assessments, and the greatest gains were made by those who were previously low achieving.

After the low achievers spent time discussing, assessing themselves and others on these different assessments, they started behaving like the highest achievers, and the researchers concluded that low achievers are often thought of as lacking ability or being slow, but what they actually found was that they were often low achieving just because they don't know what's important and what they're meant to be paying attention to.

And the seventh graders in the study scored at high levels than AP physics students on test of high school physics. So the impact of that self and peer assessment was dramatic.

Sources: White, B. Y., & Frederiksen, J. R. (1998). Inquiry, modeling, and metacognition: Making science accessible to all students. Cognition and Instruction, 16(1), 3-118.
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