Peer assessment

Enhancing the learning experience

To truly understand peer assessment, it is important to first understand the importance of assessment and its role in education. Assessment can be described as the means by which a student’s work is critically reviewed to ascertain the level of knowledge acquired during a given course of study. 

Ciarda Barrett, Further Learning Group Chief Learning Officer, believes that assessment “is the most critical element of the education process. It provides a goal for which students aspire, it ensures consistency in the quality and level of education delivered, it provides reassurance to employers and admission boards, it is essential for accrediting bodies.”  

Forms Of Assessment

There are two predominant forms of assessment which are employed by educators: 

  1. Summative assessment is the assessment of a student’s work in order to gain a numerical, percentile or a grade-based rating which is then used to indicate the student’s level of knowledge acquisition at a point in time. 
  2. Formative assessment is more of an ongoing process designed to inform the learner of his or her progress during the course of study. The aim of this form of assessment is to enhance the learning experience by providing richer feedback on students’ work.

The combination of summative and formative assessment is thought to provide the richest learning experience for students. 

Peer assessment

The primary purpose of peer assessment is to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter by providing feedback to one’s peers. It is a process that facilitates critical reflection and engagement in the learning material. 

A potential benefit of peer assessment is the speed at which assignments can be reviewed, as it typically results in a quicker turnaround time for the students receiving feedback and allows them to progress more quickly along a course of study.

Another positive result can perhaps be best explained by the ‘instant karma effect’ whereby a dedicated student who wishes to receive helpful assessment of their own work, assesses their peer’s work in a similarly considered manner. Such an occurrence is likely to enhance the learning experience both for the student assessor who is challenged to provide high quality feedback and for the assessed.

Through assessing the work of their peers, students are developing these twenty-first century skills, learning to think critically and gain the ability to be objective in the critical analysis of their own work. Besides aiding self-assessment, peer assessment can also aid in the building of student confidence and help students develop their communication skills in a more challenging environment than that typically found in day-to-day social interaction. 

All of these qualitative benefits foster a unique collaborative learning environment that is difficult to produce artificially. 

Peer assessment in the online learning environment

The online or e-learning environment allows for the creation of virtual communities which are particularly suited to collaborative learning and can potentially be adapted to support and enhance peer assessment.

Online learning offers a constructivist approach to education as it allows students to build their own learning experience. It also helps students to feel comfortable, even if experiencing it as part of a group. A community of online learners can create a collaborative learning environment free from barriers often present in face-to-face interactions. The virtual learning environment opens opportunities to change the way in which assessment is performed. 

A study to determine student perceptions towards formative peer assessment within an online learning environment was conducted with the participation of students from the Further Learning Group. This research had three key objectives: 

  1. Uncover student perceptions towards peer assessment prior to their participation in a peer assessment task. 
  2. Examine the participation rates and performance of students engaged in a peer assessment exercise. 
  3. Determine the students’ perception towards peer assessment after they had assessed a peer’s work and received an assessment of their own work from a peer. 

Based on the findings of both the pre and post assessment surveys and the interviews conducted the data suggests that the students who took part in this study were receptive to the concept of receiving formative peer assessment. However, there is a clear preference towards receiving this formative feedback from either a tutor or a peer at a more advanced stage in the course. 

Most students in the study did not feel that having their assignment formatively assessed by a peer would make them more conscientious when completing their assignment. 

The results also indicated that the students liked the idea of giving formative feedback and had a high self-trust in their ability to provide this. Students have confidence in their own abilities to give feedback to a peer and are comfortable with giving negative feedback when warranted.  

A majority of students indicated that they felt assessing the work of a peer would enhance their own learning. 

We are now ready to take online education to the next level. Project Athena deep dives into the assessment process – moving our tried and tested platform beyond students-tutoring interaction, to enable quality-controlled student-to-student collaborative learning.

Myles O’Reilly, Further Learning Group Chairman

Project Athena

Project Athena comes after the interesting findings of long studies. The insights were used for the development of a peer assessment program, that will provide an enriched learning experience for our students and will allow them to take advantage of the online communities that develop within this expanding area of education. 

We believe peer assessment can be beneficial for both parties involved, and that constructive feedback can enhance the students’ learning experience. By giving feedback, the students are training their critical eye and their ability to be objective in the analysis of either their peers’ and their own work. On the other hand, the peer being assessed has the opportunity to improve their work, learn from their mistakes and also gain knowledge from their peers’ perspectives. 

This platform will allow students to give and receive formative feedback from each other, as well as from their tutors. During our courses, students’ complete assignments which are uploaded online and first marked by an assigned tutor for formative feedback before being resubmitted and marked for summative assessment. This dual marking is a requirement for the academy by their accreditors, the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC), which is delivered by Pearson Education. 

We intend to transition the initial tutor formative assessment to a formative peer assessment. It will not affect the summative assessment which will still be conducted by a qualified tutor. This way, when students complete their assignment and upload it on the platform, instead of being their tutor reviewing and giving formative feedback, the work will be available anonymously for another student, who will be on the same course level, to give that feedback. 

The students giving the formative feedback will be asked to evaluate if the learning outcomes have been achieved and will also have the opportunity to provide their personal opinion on the work. Once that feedback is completed, the peer being assessed will receive it, and will have the opportunity to read the formative feedback and improve their work before resubmitting it for summative assessment. These peer assessments will be moderated by the course director in order to ensure anonymity and protect students from potential abuse. 

Apart from their role in giving formative feedback, students will also have the opportunity to be content creators. We will encourage our students to submit their own course content suggestions to be then added to the current courses. We want to put the part to learn and the part to teach into the students’ hands and want them to have an active voice on the courses we provide. 

The updated platform will also have social tools that will allow students to find peers living near them and arrange study meetings. The framework will concede students to follow each other’s profiles and share updates or their accomplishments during the course. 

Athena will be a space for students to communicate and actively interact with each other. We envisioned an online environment that would allow students to seamlessly collaborate and encourage each other on their learning journey. A platform that would facilitate students’ connections, providing a framework that enables students to assess and give valuable feedback on each other’s work.

Always pioneering

At the Further Learning Group, we are always challenging ourselves and each other to evolve and look for new ways to improve our students’ experiences. Athena is the result of FLG being a pioneer in delivering high quality learning and making it accessible to anyone.

Project Athena will empower students to take control of their own online learning experience, allowing for enhanced collaboration quality-controlled peer assessment. The Further Learning Group is in a position to build an online learning community like no other. We believe that project Athena will provide a brighter future not only for the Further Learning Group and our students, but for all online learners – a future that will allow every student to excel.” –  Myles O’Reilly, Further Learning Group Chairman.    

The platform will be officially launched during 2021. 

Remote Tutoring: How We Support And Engage With Our Students

At the Further Learning Group, we offer formal learning through accredited home study courses, which maintain the same level and quality of support as classroom-based learning. Our tutors play a pivotal role in providing this level of support, as they are the main point of contact between students and their academies.

Wayne Crichlow: Competing on Sky Arts Master of Photography

Wayne attended the Postgraduate Diploma course at the British Academy of Photography. This was his first contact with the industry, where he learned the technical aspects of photography, and gave him the confidence to participate in the Sky Arts Master of Photography.

Approved Academic Partner: The University of Chester

The Further Learning Group is an approved academic partner of the University of Chester. Our BTEC Higher National course, accredited by Pearson Education, has allowed us to become a validated partner offering degrees awarded by the University of Chester.

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