I finally finished my essay on peer assessment, and to my relief, thereby conclude the course in university pedagogy that the University of Bergen requires new employees to take. I think it’ll be published in a report series from the University. I wrote it in Norwegian, since it’s very much set within a Norwegian context.
Basically it’s a description of the way we did peer assessment in my class last semester, with a bit of contextualisation in terms of research on assessment forms, especially peer assessment, and in terms of previous (almost non-existent) experience with peer assessment in Norway. The nursing school in Oslo uses peer assessment, a little. That’s about it, as far as I can discover. I discuss the students’ reactions and their evaluations after the process, as well as the techniques I used to encourage productive and constructive feedback.
The most interesting findings are that the students were hugely more positive to the peer assessment after experiencing it than they were beforehand. However, their social discomfort made the process touchy, and that would need to be worked on in future use of peer assessment.
I’m interested in hearing thoughts on the article, if you read it. Though I suspect my future research is more likely to be about networked art, literature and blogging than assessment techniques.
Some 30 years ago, when I’d enrolled in a couple of university subjects which interested me, one lecturer decided that we’d use peer review to mark an essay. We were split up into “teams”, with five five students in my group. I left it to the other four to grade our essays. I didn’t consider them competent enough to assess the work, and preferred to spend the time reading anyway; but out of kindness I simply told them I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of assessing others.
I recieved not only the lowest mark in our group, but also one of the lowest marks in the whole course. The “chairman” of our “peer assessment team” confided in me that they had actually given me MORE than they thought it was worth. When she saw I wasm’t upset, she confided that i’d expressed my ideas so poorly, that they hadn’t even understood what I was trying to say.
The lecturer had included a safeguard provision that he would remark essays if it seemed anyone’s assignment was worth more, and he offered to do just that.
I declined the offer, poining out that I didn’t need the marks, and that since he’d always assessed my contributions to be ahead of theirs, I could live with “not being understood” by my peers. Besides, I’d made my point. They’d shown, far better than anything I could have said or written, that they weren’t sufficiently competent to assess the material.
Peer review can be an invaluable teaching tool when used to help students better UNDERSTAND material. Peer review can push students’ thinking down paths they might not normally tread. Giving them the power to determine others’ marks, however, strikes me as a form of intellectual Russian Roulette. No doubt it sometimes works; but when it does, luck has played a bigger role than it should in academia.
[p.s. in the unlikely event of my mastering Norwegian, I’ll come back and read the article]