Peer and self-assessment for students

When using assessment as learning in the classroom, peer and self-assessment is an effective approach to enhance the learning of students. Explicitly teaching students how to assess their own work, and the work of their peers, has many benefits. It promotes student understanding of their learning, and provides opportunities for critical analysis of their own efforts encouraging them to become more autonomous learners.

hree primary students, two girls and one boy are participating in a lesson. One of the girls is filming the other two students as they complete the tasks for the lesson.
Image: Developing students skills in peer and self assessment supports their development as more independent learners.

Peer and self-assessment is an essential aspect of ‘assessment as learning’ (formative assessment):

  • Peer assessment involves students reflecting on the work of their peers, against success criteria related to a learning goal, and providing constructive feedback.
  • Self-assessment involves students applying success criteria related to a learning goal, reflecting on their efforts, identifying improvements and adjusting the ‘quality’ of their work.

Meaningful peer and student self-assessment have the potential to positively contribute to student learning and achievement.

The four steps for peer and self-assessment for students
Image: The four steps of assessment for students includes teacher assessment, peer assessment, self-assessment and then autonomous learner

An upward cycle of learning results when students confidently set learning goals that are moderately challenging yet realistic, and then exert the effort, energy, and resources needed to accomplish those goals. (Ross, 2006)

Characteristics of peer and self-assessment

Through explicit instruction and modelling, teachers can develop their students’ skills in peer and self-assessment to support their development as more independent learners.

For more detailed information about ‘assessment as learning’ or to check understanding about the similarities and differences between assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment for learning, refer to Aspects of assessment.

What it looks like for teachers and students

For teachers:

  • sharing/ developing learning intentions and success criteria with students
  • modelling assessment and feedback processes
  • providing exemplars of work that do/ do not meet the criteria.

For students:

  • interacting to improve each other's work
  • using learning journals and reflection logs
  • setting improvement goals.

What it sounds like for teachers and students

For teachers:

  • discussing the features of 'quality' work
  • offering ongoing 'closing the gap' feedback to students.

For students:

  • discussing each other's work
  • silently critiquing and reflecting on their own work
  • admitting to not understanding something
  • giving feedback to ach other using appropriate language.

What it feels like in the classroom

A classroom where:

  • errors are valued as learning opportunities
  • students are actively involved in their own learning and assessment
  • students value peer and self-assessment as an integral part of the learning process
  • students are motivated to improve their own work and the work of others.

Peer and self-assessment involves students using information to improve their learning and that of their peers. While there is considerable overlap between peer and self-assessment, each of these will be explored separately so that teachers can explicitly teach and model these vital learning skills.

Peer assessment

Peer assessment involves students assessing each other's work according to a set of criteria and offering feedback suggestions.

Prerequisites for peer assessment

It occurs best when students are accustomed to and comfortable with:

  • a cycle of assessment feedback action
  • using learning intentions and success criteria
  • receiving and applying improvement feedback from their teacher.

Successful peer assessment takes time and practice. Teachers need to explicitly teach and model how to provide feedback before handing this important aspect of students' learning to the students.

How to introduce it

  • Involve students in defining/clarifying success criteria - the descriptions of what achievement of the learning intention/s looks like.
  • Work with samples - exemplars and examples make the criteria visible for students.
  • Teach students how to apply criteria - explicit instruction and modelling helps students understand what constitutes ‘quality’.
  • Provide guidance as students apply criteria - applying criteria to anonymous samples deepens understanding of the criteria.
  • Support students in peer assessment and feedback - prompts including sentence starters and feedback forms help students to give appropriate feedback.

How to support it

  • Combine peer assessment with teacher feedback.
  • Develop and use peer assessment tools, for example templates, checklists and rubrics.
  • Use the gradual release of responsibility model, that is teacher modelling, guided instruction, shared practice, then independent practice.
  • Develop some criteria (or ground rules) for giving effective feedback, to be used by students when giving and receiving feedback.
  • Insist, and require evidence, that peer assessment, feedback and improvements occur before students submit work or request teacher assistance.
  • Ensure that parents and carers understand why you use peer assessment and that it is only one of a variety of assessment strategies that you use.

What you can try tomorrow

  • Co-develop some ground rules for peer assessment and display as a wall chart or design a bookmark for each student.
  • Select an appropriate strategy/ tool for students to use for peer assessment tasks - see Strategies for peer assessment
  • Teach and model peer assessment and giving feedback.
  • Provide exemplars.
  • Involve students in developing criteria.
  • Have students:
    • assess against the success criteria and identify successes
    • indicate where the success criteria has and hasn’t been met - the teacher may suggest ways to improve
    • identify successes, highlight an area for improvement and make an improvement
      suggestion independently.
  • Remind students of the success criteria and emphasise that all comments must relate to the success criteria.
  • Ask students to sign any comments they write on someone else’s work - this encourages responsible
    comments.
  • Allow 5–10 minutes for students to make improvements based on peer feedback before they give their work to you.

For more detailed information about peer-assessment see Introducing peer assessment and Strategies for student peer assessment.

Student self-assessment

When teachers explicitly teach students to become effective self‐assessors, they become empowered to take charge of their own learning – a necessary skill for lifelong learning.

For most students, it's recommended that peer assessment precedes self-assessment, though some students may be able to engage in the two processes simultaneously.

As with peer assessment, self-assessment takes time and practice and teachers need to explicitly teach and model how to self-assess before students are expected to use self-assessment effectively.

Prerequisites for self-assessment

In order for students to be successful self-assessors they need to be accustomed to:

  • using learning intentions and success criteria
  • receiving and applying improvement feedback from their teacher and peers
  • reflecting on how their work meets success criteria – analysing the effectiveness of their efforts.

As a result of implementing peer assessment the teacher will be:

  • explicitly identifying, sharing/co-developing and clarifying learning goals and success criteria
  • modelling the application of criteria using samples.

How to introduce it

  • Provide guided opportunities to self-assess
  • Provide students with feedback on the ‘quality’ of their self-assessments
  • Teach students how to use feedback from self‐assessments to set learning goals and plan the next steps
  • Demonstrate how students can monitor their learning and progress towards their goals.

How to support it

  • Provide opportunities for students to self-assess at all stages of the learning process.
  • Make self-assessment a regular part of what students do during and after learning rather than a ‘bolt on’ activity.
  • Ensure students understand that self-assessment is about learning and improvement, not being right or wrong.
  • Explicitly teach, model and scaffold self-assessment.
  • Use a range of techniques and tools to enable students to gradually take increasing responsibility for their own learning and progress.
  • Teach students the language of self-assessment, such as evaluation, reflection, goal-setting and targets.
  • Ensure that parents and carers understand why you use self-assessment and that it is only one of a variety of assessment strategies that you use.

For more detailed information about self-assessment see Introducing self-assessment and Strategies for student self-assessment.

What you can try tomorrow

  • Ask students to highlight the best section of their work and explain why they think it’s good.
  • Have students identify where they have met each of the success criteria.
  • Ask students to highlight the sentence/section of their work that they are most pleased with.
  • Ask students to write one question they would like you to answer in your feedback.
  • Include some reflection time at the end of the lesson. Teach students how to reflect on their learning.
  • Pause during the lesson and ask students to discuss how their learning is going. Experiment with using Thumbs up or Traffic lights.
  • Provide some sentence starters and prompts to help students reflect and/or identify areas for improvement.
  • Teach and model self-assessment.
  • Provide exemplars so that students know what they’re aiming for.
  • Discuss and practise individual goal setting.
  • Ask students to identify an area where they are uncertain or where they think they need help to improve.
  • Design some self-assessment templates.
  • Introduce Exit cards where students write and submit answers to prompts such as:
    • What was the most important thing you learned today?
    • What questions do you still have?
  • Use 3,2,1 at the end of a lesson:
    • 3 things I’ve learnt
    • 2 questions I’ve got
    • 1 insight I’ve had.

References

  • Arter, J, Chappuis, J., Chappuis, S. & Stiggins, R., (2006). Classroom assessment for student learning - Doing it right. Doing it well. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.
  • Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B. & William, D., (2004). Working Inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 86, No 1.
  • Department of Education & Training Victoria. (n.d.). Assessment Professional Learning, Module 4: Assessment AS Learning.
  • Earl, L., & Katz, S. (2006). Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind.
  • Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. (2007a). Student self‐assessment. Capacity Building Series. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education.
  • Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010). Growing Success. Assessment, Evaluation and reporting in Ontario Schools.
  • Rolheiser, C. & Ross, J. (2001). Student self-evaluation: What research says and what practice shows. In R. D. Small & A. Thomas (Eds.), Plain talk about kids (pp. 43–57). Covington, LA: Center for Development and Learning.
  • Ross, J. A. (2006). The reliability, validity, and utility of self-assessment. Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, Vol. 11, No 10.
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