6.4 Peer review and peer assessment
The familiar definition of peer review is about academic peers reviewing an article or book and deciding if a piece of work is worth publishing, however the term ‘peer review’ is sometimes used interchangeably with peer assessment, which is about students reviewing and assessing each other’s work, often as part of a learning activity or towards graded assessment. The assessment criteria for the peer review and assessment activity is set by the teacher. Sometimes self assessment is built into the criteria as well.
An advantage of peer review and assessment is the range of feedback it can bring to learners – there is learning involved in reviewing another learner’s work which can help learners improve their own subsequent work as they gain insights into the topic from different perspectives and may also lead to better understanding of a topic or concept. Learners can gain valuable analytical experience from evaluating the work of others against the defined criteria.
In addition, peer review and assessment can often result in learners receiving feedback faster than if all assessments are done by a teacher, which is useful when the topic is still being discussed and is therefore still fresh in the minds of the learners.
The assessment criteria sometimes includes rubrics on the different elements or objectives for the activity, giving guidance on how much each element is worth when grading. Elements or objectives for grading can include how the learner has organised their content, their subject knowledge, the expression and originality of their ideas, the balance of material used and how well they keep to the curriculum or topic. The rubric might also ask the learners to assess whether the work contained any grammatical, spelling or typographical errors, if this is an appropriate assessment criteria for the subject.
In an online course there are tools which can facilitate peer review and assessment, usually in time-bound courses with a start and end date which are supported by teachers or tutors. Peer assessment can be offered as both formative and summative assessment options. Learner engagement in this type of assessment activity is sometimes reluctant unless the learners know that they will not achieve all the criteria required for recognition of informal learning if they do not participate.
Providing peer review and assessment in an open online course which is perpetually open is a challenge as a tutor or moderator would be an ongoing expense in this situation, so a special tool is needed to enable ongoing peer review and assessment functionality to work.