Assessment As Learning: Collaborative Peer Assessment

portrait photo of Kelly BurgoyneKelly inherited the course outline for the 3rd year BSc Educational Psychology unit “Intervention in Schools”, and whilst there was scope to redesign teaching and learning activities it was not possible to change the assessment approach. Students were tasked with creating a poster, of which 10% of the grade was awarded through peer assessment.  

Kelly was initially reticent about this, thinking it would be time consuming and that students wouldn’t engage. However her experience has been incredibly positive, as has that of the students.  

Through observation of students engaging in the peer assessment process, and reviewing their feedback and grading, it became clear how insightful and helpful the practice was. Students strongly indicated that they would have liked the opportunity earlier in the programme, and as a result, the same approach is now being designed into a year 1 unit on the programme. 

The Approach 

During the 1st semester of the year long unit “Intervention in Schools” students work in groups to develop an educational intervention based on theory. In semester 2 this is put into practice with students carrying out their interventions in schools with small groups of children.  

On the whole students engage very well on the unit, and appreciate the opportunities for creativity, playful work and connecting theory and practice. They draw upon knowledge and skills developed throughout the previous years of the programme and other 3rd year units, including research and evaluation methods. 

The assessment for the unit requires students to (individually) create a poster in which they: 

  • Describe the intervention  
  • Explain the theoretical rationale behind the intervention 
  • Propose a method of evaluation 
  • Critically reflect on the practice of delivering the intervention 

Students engage in a peer assessment session as part of the marking process. 90% of the grade is determined by tutor marking, and 10% by peers. The weighting aims to recognise the importance of the unit and teacher feedback, reduce anxiety around peer assessment, whilst still valuing the contribution of student feedback. 

NB This weighting has been amended for the year 1 unit to 30% peer and 70% tutor, reflecting both the lower stakes of summative assessment at year 1 and the need to encourage engagement. 

Peer marking is undertaken in-class in small groups to which 3 or 4 posters are assigned. Each student in the group marks each poster. This means that each paper is marked and graded at least 3 times by peers. An average is taken from these to provide a final grade for the 10% of the mark awarded by peers. Students provide both a grade and qualitative feedback. 

The design of and support for the peer assessment component is very thorough. Once students have submitted their work, and prior to the peer assessment session (which takes place 1 week after submission), Kelly assigns students to groups which avoid any potential cross over from the semester 1 group work and placement experiences. This helps to maintain anonymity in the marking process. 

The teaching team work through the ILOs with students early in semester 2, going into detail about how each ILO can be addressed and achievement demonstrated in the poster assignment. This supports students in their assessment planning and general assessment literacy. Another Q&A session is also in place before submission. 

During the peer assessment session itself (to which a 3-hour timeslot is scheduled), teaching staff provide a 20 minute overview, recapping on the ILOs and talking students through the clear and detailed assessment criteria. Students are provided with a detailed assessment marking sheet, and advised on how to allocate marks to each section of the assessment criteria and given advice on how qualitative feedback should be provided. Students then spend the rest of the session in their groups marking their peers’ posters. 


Kelly was pleased to find that students fully engaged with peer assessment. She expected around half the students to attend the session and that they would work through the marking and feedback very quickly. In fact, every student attended and engaged, and she even had to kick some students out at the end of the 3 hour session. 

During the session Kelly observed discussions between students around the allocation of marks, and the feedback they were giving. Students also asked the teaching team for support. One interesting example was when a student asked for advice on how to mark a section that was missing from the poster. The student was asked how they would mark it and they said “I can’t give it a zero, can I?”. When advised that you can’t mark something that isn’t there, student reactions from around the room highlighted to Kelly the real learning that was taking place. 

It also became clear that students were truly engaging with the ILOs, seeing them as meaningful and important. They found relevance in the assessment criteria and reflected on what this meant for their own submissions as well as their peers. Given this insight, it was agreed that students would benefit from this type of learning activity earlier in the programme.  

The quality of student feedback was of a very high standard and the average of marks for each paper was consistent with that given by the unit teachers. 

Top Tips
  • Provide very clear assessment criteria and direction to the students. 
  • Hold the peer assessment session face-face as they provide a very rich learning experience for the students. 
  • The process can be time consuming – but it is worthwhile. 
  • Students found the experience of seeing peer submissions very valuable
  • Peer assessment activity can also work well ahead of final submission (assessment for learning), but extra care would need to be taken around malpractice. 


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School: School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED)

Discipline: Education

Academic: Kelly Burgoyne

Course: EDUC33050 Interventions in Schools

Cohort Size: circa 40 students

Themes: Assessment, Assessment Innovations

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