Peer assessment

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I have found that pupils sometimes aren’t actually that good at peer assessment. I know it’s a fantastic way of exposing pupils to what they have done well and how they can improve by finding faults in their own work as well as finding room for improvement in others’ work. However, in humanities, I have found that it can be quite challenging to include peer assessment that actually works. When I was training, I got so annoyed with the constant ‘you have used lots of colour’ and ‘you need to write more’ that I stopped including peer assessment for quite a while. I just didn’t think it would work for me and felt that the most effective and useful feedback had to come from me.

Recently, as my marking workload has increased, and I have just had the torture of having to mark over 210 KS3 assessments, I have resolved that it is essential that I use more peer assessment in my lessons. I have found that there are few things that I need to do to ensure that my pupils are able to peer assess usefully.

Firstly, the criteria by which we are assessing needs to be absolutely crystal clear. I have decoded exam board mark schemes into simpler terms for my KS4 and I have provided examples of different level work for pupils to compare the work they are marking to. If they do not know what work of each level looks like, they are simply unable to assess it and therefore any feedback generated would most likely be inaccurate and not helpful.

Also, I have created these prompt posters which are displayed around my classroom. After having so so many ‘write more’ type feedback comments, I realised that all pupils simply do not have the understanding to generate their own comments. By using sentence starters pupils are able to adjust to make relevant to the work they are assessing, but also ensure that the comments are useful. This not only stretches the abilities of the pupil who the work belongs to, but also the pupil who is assessing.

RS in particular is tricky for peer assessing, as there are often no right and wrong answers and therefore it is not the content that pupils are checking but the structure and development of the response. I have found that pupils often struggle with the ‘no indicative content’ part of a mark scheme or success criteria and therefore peer assessment often needs a lot of scaffolding. If you are using it as a meaningful way to give feedback to pupils without having to assess each piece of work individually, then it must be done well the first time around, otherwise it will save you no time at all (or benefit the pupil) as you have to go through and check/amend each one.

Another way of improving peer assessment is by having clear and consistent peer assessment methods. One that I have seen on twitter is the SpACE (spag, accept, challenge, extend) method of peer assessment (@mrshumanities). Having something like this will embed the technique into your lessons and pupils will become used to what they are expected to do, and should result in more meaningful feedback.

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