How do people perceive peer feedback?

In this series of blog posts, we will dive into the literature around peer review and peer feedback. Each post will summarize the main findings of a different academic paper, find all our research summaries here.

Academics’ perceptions of the benefits and challenges of self and peer assessment in higher education

Authors: Chie Adachi, Deakin Learning Futures, Deakin University
Joanna Hong-Meng Tai, Center for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE),Deakin University
Phillip Dawson, Center for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE), Deakin University

What are they trying to do? What is the research question?

The researchers at Deakin University were trying to get an understanding of how academics view the benefits and challenges of peer and self-assessment. They focused their research on answering three questions:

  • What are the perceptions of academics with regards to self and peer assessment?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges that academics find in their practice of this assessment approach?
  • What then enables the sound pedagogical design and implementation of self and peer assessment?

The researchers used a qualitative approach to their research by interviewing academics at Deakin University. The participants all volunteered to be interviewed and comprised of 13individuals from different departments at the university. All interviews were analyzed and coded, meaning certain words and phrases were tagged so researchers could identify different themes in the interviews.

The benefits of peer feedback

The researchers ultimately found seven themes relating to the benefits of peer and self-assessment. They found that most participants see peer and self-assessment as a way to (1) enhance learning and (2) build skills such as communication and critical thinking. These are seen as soft or transferable skills that can be taken into any academic or career field.

Academics in the study found benefits of peer and self-assessment related greatly to equipping students with skills for the “real world” and provided an (3) authentic experience for students. The researchers note that part of the reason peer and self-assessment are seen as authentic is that students are engaging in feedback (4) that is timely, relevant and uses familiar language. Finally, one of the more discussed benefits by academics was the ability of peer and self-assessment to help students (5) understand assessment criteria and standards.

There were also two benefits that were only associated with either peer assessment or self-assessment, not both. For peer assessment, (6) students benefit in the ability to learn from others and engage in teamwork. For (7) self-assessment the benefit is the student’s growth as an independent learner.

Challenges in peer feedback

The researchers also uncovered five challenges that academics associate with peer or self-assessment.

(1) Academics were worried about the time it takes to set up and run peer or self-assessment in their courses.

(2) The challenge academics seem to face was the acceptance and understanding of both their students and other academics related to the purpose of utilizing peer feedback. Students need to understand the purpose of peer assessment and see value in it.

(3) Academics also worried that with a lack of motivation or understanding students will not engage with the assessment enough to provide meaningful critic.

(4) The fourth challenge that was revealed through research was the challenge of taking peer assessment online. Academics were at a loss of how it could be facilitated online while others were more worried about students making authentic connections with their peers online.

(5) Finally, the fifth challenge they outlined encompasses a few different issues related to feedback. They note academics warry ness that feedback can be helpful if students do not use it to revise their work. Then the researchers also note various challenges academics see in students’ “feedback literacy”. This includes students not being equipped with communication and interpersonal skills to give feedback as well as having the proper cognitive ability to receive and process feedback.

“Students therefore have been the passive receivers of criticism on their work by their teachers. Self and peer assessment can reverse this relationship, thereby empowering students to be active assessors and emerging experts (Brindley and Scoffield 1998).”

What did we find interesting?

This research paper presents the benefits and challenges of self and peer assessment clearly and with the appropriate research and literature to back up its claims. Overall, the findings can help everyone better understand the mindset of educators and how they view self and peer assessment. One recurring theme the researchers discuss in the paper is that self and peer assessment are reliant on the educator creating them and ‘teaching’ them to their students.

The academics also see building feedback skills as a benefit but they also acknowledge that lack of feedback skills as a challenge in engaging in peer feedback in the first place.

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