Peer Evaluations and the Skeptical Student

Peer evaluations encourage students to think critically and become active users in the feedback loop. With all the benefits peer evaluations provide, it is useful to learn how to tackle some of the main concerns that students have in relation to using peer evaluation in their coursework and how you can address and stop the skepticism before it even starts.

What skepticism?

These concerns are not pulled from thin air, we have analyzed feedback we have received from students after they have used Peergrade for one semester. Across students, we have seen that there are common concerns with peer grading and peer evaluation including: lack of teacher involvement, extra course work and feeling unprepared to give feedback. Below are three ways that these concerned can be addressed in the classroom.

1. Question of Integration

One of the main concerns students have had with using peer evaluation is related to the way it has been incorporated into their course work. If students already have a long list of assignments they need to complete for the course, then adding peer evaluation might feel like extra work, because it feels just like what is, an addition. If students are going to engage and put proper effort into peer evaluations, they need to feel that it is an important part of the course material.

2. Teacher Involvement

It is necessary to make sure that students know that peer evaluation does not mean that teachers are removing themselves from the task of teaching or grading. Students need to be assured that their teachers are equally involved in peer evaluation by being there to guide them, whether through clear evaluation rubrics or in class instructions and by bringing some of the discussions up in the classroom.

3. The Importance of Rubrics

Finally, we cannot write enough about the importance of rubrics, without clear guidelines and instructions, students are not able to offer constructive feedback to their peers. A good rubric takes time and consideration, but the time spent will pay off when students are able to fairly and reliably assess their peers and provide helpful feedback.

So where does that leave us?

The suitability of anything new in the classroom often comes down to how well its been implemented and integrated into the course work. This will determine both the usefulness of the new tool for the teacher and how well students will accept the change.

In order to effectively integrate peer grading into your course does require you to rethink the way you teach and assign projects to your students. But once you have taken the time to integrate it into your teaching, it will give you the possibility to use your time more constructively as well as offer your students the possibility to learn a valuable skill that can be used outside the academia.

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