Teaching and Learning Forum 95 [ Contents ]

The challenge of peer assessment

Denise Kirkpatrick and Richard Fuller
Edith Cowan University
The use of peer assessment as an alternative to lecture assessment is an option which is being considered more frequently as we seek ways to relieve demands on lecturers' time. The decision to adopt peer assessment is not one which should be made lightly and there are many issues to consider.

In this workshop we will get the group to:

We will provide a bibliography of relevant literature.

We intend this workshop to be exploratory so that participants can share their own experiences and questions about peer assessment and work towards identifying ways of making peer assessment a workable alternative assessment technique.


The term peer assessment may be taken to mean many things. From the literature there is a range of situations which are encompassed by the term:

Why use it?

Peer assessment may be used for a number of purposes. It may be used formatively or summatively and it can take a range of forms. There are sound arguments for the benefits accruing to both staff and students but disadvantages which must also be considered.


  • saves time
  • allows staff to focus on other aspects of teaching
  • enhanced learning outcomes
  • learn skill of self assessment and evaluation
  • learn to monitor own learning
  • develop the ability to judge their own work
  • see a greater range of performance standards
  • learn to evaluate and provide feedback to peers
  • opportunity to develop necessary professional skills
  • facilitates the development of deep approaches to learning
  • links to the cycle of peer review

  • open to challenge
  • challenges traditional roles
  • increased preparation time (model answers, marking guides etc)
  • may be reluctant to participate
  • lack of knowledge of criteria
  • unfamiliarity with assessment techniques
  • reluctance to fail peers
  • challenges traditional staff and student roles
  • collusion between students

Issues relating to the use of peer assessment

Possible solutions to major issues

Participants generated solutions to the following issues:

Possible strategies for incorporating student self marking

  1. Self assessment schedules with marks justified and moderated by staff. Students prepare a statement of what they have achieved in the form of a self assessment schedule (original goals, criteria they believe should be applied, evidence to justify extent of achievement, judgment of success).

  2. Self marks moderated by peers -
    One or more peers mark the individual. Self and peer score discrepancies are resolved by staff. Use model answers prepared by staff.

  3. Criteria generated by peers -
    Involve students in a group exercise to generate common criteria for the performance of the assignment. Criteria then provide a checklist which students complete and submit with the assignment.

  4. Weighting for the quality of self assessment -
    Students receive marks for the quality of their self assessment, how critical/insightful.
    Problem that this turns self assessment into another assignment and colludes with the student attitude that you only do something if you get marks for it. However it encourages critical self assessment.

  5. Marks count after student has demonstrated competence in self assessment.

  6. Use of learning contracts -
    Learning contracts can include criteria for specific grades.

  7. Grade contracting -
    Students set own goals and specify which goal they want to aim for and describe the criteria that will indicate success. If they satisfy contracted requirements they are awarded the chosen grade.

Necessary conditions

High trust, high integrity learning environment
Students are rewarded for high integrity marking
Marks are moderated by staff so that deviations from staff marks need to be justified
Blind peer marking is used as check
The achievement of effective self assessment is a major goal
Students are provided with opportunity to practise and develop their skills
Criteria against which achievement is to be judged is clear and unambiguous
Effort is explicitly excluded as a criterion
Ensure that the purpose of assessment is clear


Boud, D. (1989). The role of self-assessment in student grading. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 14, 20-30.

Boud, D. & Falchikov, N. (1989). Quantitative studies of student self-assessment in higher education: A critical analysis of findings. Higher Education, 18, 529-549.

Conway, R., Kember, D., Sivan, A. & Wu, M. (1993). Peer assessment of an individual's contribution to a group project. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 18, 45-56.

Falchikov, N. & Boud, D. (1989). Student self assessment in higher education: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 59, 395-430.

Falchikov, N. (1986). Product comparisons and process benefits of collaborative peer group and self assessments. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 11, 146-166.

Fry, S. (1990). Implementation and evaluation of peer marking in higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 15, 177-189.

Goldfinch, J. & Raeside, R. (1990). Development of a peer assessment technique for obtaining individual marks on a group project. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 15, 210-231.

Hughes, I. & Large, B. (1993). Staff and peer-group assessment of oral communication skills. Studies in Higher Education, 18, 379-385.

Keaten, J. & Richardson, M. (1993). A field investigation of peer assessment as part of the student group grading process. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western States Communication Association (Albuquerque, NM, February 12-16).

Marcoulides, G. & Simkin, M. (1991). Evaluating student papers: The case for peer review. Journal of Education for Business, 67, 80-83.

Orpen, C. (1992). Student versus lecturer assessment of learning: A research note. Higher Education, 11, 567-572.

Somervell, H. (1993). Issues in assessment, enterprise and higher education: The case for self, peer and collaborative assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 18, 221-233.

Williams, E. (1992). Student attitudes towards approaches to learning and assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 17, 45-58.

Please cite as: Kirkpatrick, D. and Fuller, R. (1995). The challenge of peer assessment. In Summers, L. (Ed), A Focus on Learning, p146-149. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Edith Cowan University, February 1995. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/kirkpatrick.html

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