The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

4.2 Peer- and self-assessment

Peer- and self-assessment have substantial advantages (see section 5.4 for further reading) and these are summarised by Race (2001):

  • Students are already self-assessing and peer assessing quite naturally.
  • Tutor assessment is not sufficiently valid, reliable or transparent.
  • Peer- and self-assessment deepen students' learning experiences.
  • They let students into the assessment culture.
  • They help students towards becoming autonomous learners.
  • They help students develop skills relating to life-long learning.
  • They help students to gain much more feedback than would otherwise be possible.
  • Some of the drudgery can be saved by peer assessment.
  • Self-assessment gets students to reflect on their own work, and can open up productive student-tutor dialogues.
  • Students' performance in traditional assessments is enhanced.

A number of appropriate peer- and self-assessment checklists are included in Jaques (2000). One of these lists concentrates on students' skills in organising their learning:

  • Contribution to group discussion.
  • Carries out instructions and degree of supervision needed.
  • Works easily with others.
  • Response to criticism.
  • Polite with colleagues.
  • Ability to organise own work.
  • Ability to supervise others' work.
  • Speed of recognising essentials.
  • Adaptability to new situations.
  • Efficiency at solving problems.

A mark of 1-5 is applied on a scale that goes from a very positive assessment of their colleagues' ability to a very negative assessment.

Instead of checklists completed by all students, we can opt for forms that are completed by the project group leaders. Elliott (2001) adopts this method in a group project for first-year business economics, with statements being made about the work of each group member.

The argument for self- and peer assessment is not one-sided. There are dangers of student bias that need to be allowed for. Typically, bias may arise from:

  • reticence about providing negative information on fellow students;
  • reluctance to cover a full spectrum of marks, with realistic maxima and minima;
  • collusion that disadvantages some individuals;
  • reluctance to fail a student.

Design options to counter such bias include:

  • initial discussion, input and commitment by students to assessment programme;
  • checking uniformity of student opinion (e.g. individual questionnaires);
  • observing anonymity in assessment (e.g. questionnaires completed in class);
  • a clear procedure for arbitration on disputed assessments;
  • a procedure for investigation of student participation (e.g. vivas, log books and exams).