The Power of Self and Peer Assessment

Formative assessment is a great resource for teachers and students alike to use in order to aid their learning development. Within a lesson it is important for everyone in the room to have an idea of where and how effectively learning is taking place. Assessment for learning focuses on how students learn best, with effective teachers involving AfL in both their planning and classroom practice. Assessment for Learning can take the form of different approaches, with the four basic assessment strategies being sharing learning goals, effective feedback, questioning and self and peer-assessment. Within this website you will find three of these four basic assessment strategies covered; effective feedback and questioning being found linked here – Effective Feedback. Questioning. Paul Black explains how formative assessment can be beneficial if the time is put in to implement it in place within your classroom, with a positive message of ‘not working harder, but working smarter’ becoming part of the growth mind-set of the class promoting not only an increase in the teachers love of the profession, but also an increase in the children’s enjoyment, understanding and value for learning (2003, p2.) Within this page you will find information on the effectiveness of self and peer assessment.

Self Assessment

As David Boud identifies learner self-assessment ‘involves two key elements’ (1995, p 11.) Through the development of knowledge and ability to meet the criteria given to work and the capacity to make decisions surrounding the ability to meet these standards learners can successfully self-assess performance, learning or development. By enabling the children of our future classrooms to judge for themselves their ability to meet the required standards, they are able to further develop their understanding and knowledge as learning can be argued to be most productive and for greater gain when it is an active process. Formative assessment strategies such as self-assessment provide this active process to help develop learning as students engage with either teacher supported or self-questioning often following a simple ‘what did I do well?’ structure. The use of self-assessment is possible across all aspects of the curriculum, with self-assessment being featured in an end of topic maths test seen recently within school.

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The children were presented tables like the ones seen above where they were instructed to place a tick inside the box which they felt best represent their knowledge. Children could assess their knowledge and understanding of each statement through three levels; ‘Not Yet,’ ‘Kind of’ and ‘Got it.’ Giving children the opportunity to self-assess their own knowledge not only allows them to visually represent their understandings whilst also providing the class teacher with an easily accessible resource showing how confident the children of their class are with different topics. Take the second picture for example; a teacher could use this child’s self-assessment to help better plan the next topics of study for the class like identifying numbers that are more than or less than. As identified in Black’s book ‘Assessment for Learning: putting it into practice,’ (2003) children can use self-assessment as a source for increased responsibility in their learning as they ‘develop an overview of the work so that it becomes possible for them to manage and control it’ (2003, p49.) An alternative method of self-assessment to the one found above can also be found in the form of a traffic light system; a resource which can be used as a sign of confidence when various tasks are set. Located on the link below is a set of communication fans featuring different facial expressions with the tag lines “I’m confident,” “I’m nearly there” and “I’m not sure.”

http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/T-C-007-Communication-Fans

Through the use of effective questioning – details of which can be found within Harriet’s blog post – teachers or TA’s could discuss a task with their class then assess the need for further explanation based upon the general responses given. This is a great opportunity for many children to express their concerns as some may be less vocal than others when it comes to discussing where they may struggle.

 

The first of two videos found on this blog is taken from Jobs for Future; a youtube channel with a project running known as ‘Students at the Center’ which ‘synthesizes and adapts for practice current research on key components of student-centered approaches to learning that lead to deeper learning outcomes’ (StudentsAtTheCenter, 2014.) The video above details how self-assessment works and that it is not a summative process in which children give themselves grades, but one in which students engage in ‘a formative process in which they compare their work to clear criteria and determine how to make improvements.’ (Jobs for the Future, 2013) Through the use of a checklist or a rubric students are able to understand what is required of them, either in that specific lesson or across the whole term or year. Through having access to the criteria required for self-assessment, students, as the video quotes, are more likely to achieve higher grades and test scores due to the self-assessment skills learned. A teacher within the video details that self-assessment helps students to realise that if they are not at the level they wish to be, they aren’t done yet; it’s about the things that count and meeting the criteria. With the national curriculum now set at a ‘keep up’ work rate as the country attempts to ‘keep up’ with the rest of the world, it is essential for students to take an active and engaging role in their learning as teachers set high standards in order for students to meet the requirements; with former education secretary Michael Gove being quoted as suggesting ‘changes were necessary for England to keep pace with the most successful education systems in the world’ (BBC, 2014.) As Shirley Clarke identifies, through the use of self-evaluation continually ‘reflection, pride in successes, modification and improvement become natural part of the process of learning’ (2005) and it is that of which the level of where self-evaluation can take children; from the ability to complete their work, to the ability to improve their work but also detail how and why they could.

Peer Assessment

Alongside self-evaluation, children can take part in peer-evaluation; a process involving partners or groups where children are able to review another child’s work identifying areas of development and areas they see as strengths to aide another child’s learning. Paul Black claims that peer-assessment is ‘an important complement and may even be a prior requirement for self-assessment’ (2003.) Drawing reference to a study taken from a school Black notes how peer-assessment is not only beneficial for the student whose work is being marked, but also for the students marking themselves as they ‘take pride in clear and well-presented work that one of their peers may be asked to mark’ (2003.) This was something I myself noticed through the use of peer-assessment within my class. As students were asked to provide a positive comment and an improvement comment for another child’s work, the children of the class reflected and acted well upon the feedback they had received, with the majority responding to the advice received from another student. The peer-assessment idea was initially brought about as a chance for the higher attainers to provide assistance with lower attainers, however it was effective for the majority of the students within the class and an idea which will be found within any future planning I undertake.

The idea I used with my class is a simplified version of David Perkins’ Ladder of Feedback (2003.) A great and accessible peer-assessment strategy, the Ladder of Feedback – which can link peer assessment to Jenny’s blog on Effective Feedback – involves a four step process in which children identify areas q  to question, value, concern and suggest. One of the first steps to peer-assessment however is stopping the class from working and inviting them to engage in this peer-assessment process. An alternative idea might be to use the peer-assessment process at the start of a lesson; i.e. if children were continuing on from the previous day’s work then peer-assessment can be a great starter activity.
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An idea to ensure that children are taking peer-assessment seriously is the idea of a class agreement (or a rubric as the videos call it). Setting out the rules and expectations when undertaking peer-assessment will ensure children are taking the task seriously to ensure rich and detailed comments which, when combined with ‘their own perceptions and whatever other information is available, can form a judgement which will influence future learning’ more than normal assessment could (Boud, 1995.) Dylan Wiliam suggests a method in which students can engage fully in the ideas Boud suggests surrounding children using rich and detailed comments; the idea of ‘Two Stars and a Wish.’ Wiliam details how children can provide feedback to another child’s work through ‘Two Stars’ – two things they find good about the work – and ‘a Wish’ – a suggestion for improvement (2011) By writing the comments on sticky notes as opposed to on a child’s work the suggestions could be ignored if a child was to not take the task seriously. Alternatively, the link below taken from Twinkl shows various styles of ‘Two Stars and a Wish’ templates are available for free for all teachers to use and could be used across various age groups ranging from early years right up to year 6.

http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resources/early-years-two-stars-and-a-wish/

 

 

The second of the two videos taken from Jobs For Future’s ‘Students at the Center’ project (2013) details how successful peer-assessment can be with contribution again taken from teachers and students who have made effective use of the practice. One suggestion by a child within the video shows how peer-assessment is a two-way process and that while it can benefit her through the comments and feedback she receives, it can also benefit the assessor as they get the opportunity to read her work which may cause them to reflect upon their own. While the video emphasises the benefits of peer-assessment, it stresses the need for constant monitoring and an active approach to walking around the class ensuring that all children are properly applying the Ladder of Feedback approach; an approach touched on previously.

Theorists such as Shirley Clarke, David Boud, Dylan Wiliam and many more are easily accessible theorists who have shared their thoughts on the practices of self and peer assessment and similarly on other aspects of assessment which can be found on the other blog pages on this website. While they offer successful examples of methods of self and peer assessment which have been used by various teachers, classes and schools, it is important to remember that not every child is the same and many will respond differently to each task. Therefore it is up to us as professionals to find what works and how best to implement those strategies accordingly. Jobs for the future’s ‘Students at the Center’ project is a great example of a shift in the tide as learning becomes more about student independency – a shift that has proven effectiveness in a classroom environment.

 

 

 

Reference List

BBC. (2014). Pupils begin ‘tough’ new national curriculum. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-28987787. Last accessed 25th Nov 2015.

Black, P (2003). Assessment for Learning. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Boud, D (1995). Enhancing Learning Through Self Assessment. London: Kogan Page Limited.

Clarke, S (2005). Formative Assessment in Action – weaving the elements together. Abingdon: Bookpoint Ltd.

Clarke, S (2001). Unlocking Formative Assessment. Abingdon: Bookpoint Ltd.

Jobs for the Future. (2013). Peer-Assessment: Reflections from Students and Teachers. [Online Video]. 22 August. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqWCJZH8ziQ. Last accessed 25th Nov 2015.

Jobs for the Future. (2013). Self-Assessment: Reflections from Students and Teachers. [Online Video]. 22 August. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkFWbC91PXQ . Last accessed 25th Nov 2015.

Perkins, D (2003). King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organisations. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

StudentsAtTheCenter (2014). About. Available: http://studentsatthecenter.org/about. Last accessed 25th Nov 2015.

Wiliam, D (2011). Embeded Formative Assessment. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.