2009

The Different Forms of Peer Assessment

Comfort zones are contradictory things, on the one hand it provides us with security, knowledge of procedures and ways of working whilst on the other it can blinker us to new ways of learning and teaching practices. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I like comfort zones, they help me survive the half termly cycles in which we can sometimes slip into. Whilst reflecting over the previous months and in negotiating my way through this case study, the suggested teaching methods have stripped away some of the routines I conducted in my class whilst highlighting other areas which I was sub consciously undertaking anyway.

Children assessing their own and their peers work is something I had touched on from time to time, focussing on it so much though has highlighted some interesting roads forward for my own teaching methods and in turn, more importantly, has equipped the pupils with valuable leaning tools.

I have focussed here on the different forms of peer assessment which I have instigated with my pupils, for example is the focus feedback on the learning objective or success criteria of the task or are we scaffolding specific improvement suggestions? Other areas investigated concerned how the feedback comments were conducted, were they in pairs, groups or centred on whole class discussions? In case of all the aforementioned being utilised then what have been the advantages and disadvantages of following such methods?

The process by which the children come to assess each others work needed to be carefully considered, one of the most effective ways of modelling what you wish children to do is to use real examples of completed work, this in turn gives the pupils a framework by which to judge their peers contributions.

The recent acquisition of a Visualiser within the class has had a positive impact on this particular aspect of peer assessment, prior good examples of work thus signpost the children in highlighting the success criteria and assist in their prospective attainment of the learning objective.

It was surprising how quickly the children adjusted to this new piece of technology within my class base and how keen they were to include its use in their appraisals.

The different forms of peer assessment undertaken by the children include the following:

  • Checking against the success criteria.
  • Discussing and comparing quality.
  • Using open learning objectives to identify success.
  • Using the traffic light system.

Checking against the success criteria

The opening stage for peer and self evaluation I attempted with my cohort was to actively encourage children to stop working for a few minutes in order to check that they had indeed included the success criteria; the importance here was not if the success criteria had been met. I actively displayed to the pupils a completed piece of work on the aforementioned Visualiser and as a class we marked off the desired features which needed to be included in their books. This modelling brought the children together well; it served to boost their confidence with the initial assessing of someone else’s work and engage them in the process of ultimately improving their achievement levels.

Discussing and comparing quality

The discussion and comparison of what you want the children to produce follows on nicely from the first step of checking the success criteria, again the use of a Visualiser has proved to be invaluable within my class base, obviously an OHP or scanned piece of work onto an interactive whiteboard can also be used. I find that carrying out this task at the end of the session is nowhere near as beneficial as doing so either at the beginning (with previous examples of work) or mid way through the lesson, this serves to highlight the quality which we are hoping to achieve. Using two pieces helps in being able to get the children to think about which piece is meeting the desired objective.

I have also found that this mechanism has had the desired effect of improving their quality of dialogue and language, an issue which is a highlighted target for my particular school. I can see that in 12 months time this feature will work much more effectively, especially as by then I will have in my possession a wealth of previous work to use as examples through the Visualiser.

Using Open Learning Objectives To Identify Success

This particular strand has had limited use so far within my class, when I have used it though It’s been exclusively within the guided writing element of our English sessions. The main emphasis here is to train children to identify their successes and make improvements. The mechanism I use is centred on asking the pupils to identify two areas which represent their best successes within their work and two areas which they believe can be improved, a simple colour coding system has been established (green for success, yellow for improvements) which the children have quickly become familiar with. The advantage of carrying this out within the guided writing sessions is that as well as the children evaluating their own work, they are also able to carry out the same procedure with a partner. At the outset I was slightly worried when this development was introduced, for example what if the children were overly critical, would their observations lead to some level of negativity within the group? So far I’m pleased to report these fears have been unfounded, it seems that the children are more than happy to examine ways in which their work can be improved and the identification of successes has been a real positive development within the guided writing sessions.

Use Of Traffic Lights

Unlike the previous strand of peer assessment I have been using the traffic light system for a while with groups of children in my class, where this was falling down though was with the fact that I used it in a fairly summative way, no dialogue was occurring which thus tended to nullify the effectiveness of such a barometer of the children’s understanding. Also leaving the traffic light tool towards the end of the session had shown that pupils who were over confident tended to over estimate their achievement whilst less confident children regularly underestimated their attainment. The way I have combated these problems is to place a small set of traffic lights on each table, they can then with a talk partner focus on a particular success criteria or steps to success.

Then signify via the traffic light card which colour represents their feeling about how they’re doing at that particular moment in the session. This encourages the children to voice any difficulties during the progression of the lesson without them feeling like they’ve failed in some aspect.

These four main aspects of peer assessment are by no means definitive but they do cover a wide range of skills which if passed onto the children, in my experience has a beneficial effect in my class of year three children.