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5 Strategies that Work for Self & Peer Assessment

Helping students strengthen their learning by becoming objective reviewers of their own work.

By Lani Aquino

The phrase we are our own worst critics resounds with many, but oftentimes in the classroom, students don’t actually fall under this old adage and take the time to critique their own work. Not to say that these are words to live by, but there is something to be gained by reviewing and reflecting on one’s own work. Many a teacher can attest to receiving poorly crafted assignments and/or work that is obviously below a student’s true potential, but many students are non-phased when handing in said products.

In a time when one and done is a common mentality that students take as they make a single attempt to complete work, it is all the more important for teachers to purposefully teach strategies for self and peer assessment. While some time and effort may have been put into the initial completion of an assignment, learning doesn’t stop and potential isn’t fully reached on that first foray. There needs to be time for introspection and opportunities to assess whether objectives and targets were met within the product of learning created. Through peer and self-assessment strategies, students can gain new insight that will leave them more confident and self-assured with the quality of their work. This will in turn leave teachers more entry points for in-depth discussion about students’ understanding of the content and the work created to showcase their mastery of it.

Self-Assessment Strategies that Work

Rubrics — Rubrics are powerful tools for all stakeholders in the educational process, but they are especially powerful and helpful when students properly use them as self-assessment tools. Students need some purposeful instruction in gleaning the most from their usage of rubrics. One of the best ways to demonstrate this is by having students review model assignments that each received differing rubric scores. The ability to discern the differences in these models will help students understand the nuances within the differing rubric categories. This close reading of work can help students realize the importance of close reading their own work against a rubric and getting the most out of this self-assessment strategy. By giving students this powerful tool before they begin working, teachers are providing them with a self-assessment tool to reference throughout assignment completion.

Cover Sheets — This strategy was shared by Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence on their Self-Assessment resource page. When students have finished an assignment, they complete and attach a self-assessment cover sheet. On the cover sheet, they respond to questions pertaining to how they completed their work and the strengths and weaknesses they feel are present within it (i.e., What do you think is well done in this assignment? Where could improvements be made?). When students are asked to couple these responses with examples from their work, it can help them in obtaining a clearer picture of their overall performance and a better understanding of the content and objectives.

Graphic Organizers — While these go-to learning tools are great for helping students organize and internalize information, they are also perfect tools for aiding students with self-assessment. A key element to point out here is that self-assessment doesn’t only occur as learning or study comes to a close. Effective learners will employ self-assessment strategies throughout the process. Graphic organizers are tangible tools that allow this to happen. The empty spaces and/or “light” response areas on these organizers of information go to show both students and teachers where understanding may be lacking and/or more attention and study may need to be applied. With graphic organizers often being used as planning tools, this self-assessment technique goes a long way in ensuring that assignments get off to the right start.

Peer Assessment Strategies that Work

Feedback Forms —In order for peer assessment to be effective, a method of critiquing and delivering feedback must be established. Peer assessment involves more than a directive of read this and tell the creator what was good/bad. Assignment specific or more general activity specific feedback forms are a great way to achieve this. Having a tangible response to create is more likely to ensure a thorough review of the peer’s work. Feedback forms can be created in a variety of ways. Some great examples include this Listening Response from Larry Ferlazzo and the Google Forms information shared by Tech & Learning.

Stars & Steps — Some feedback measures often used by teachers can also be effectively used for peer assessments. The formative feedback strategy of placing stars and steps in front of specific feedback pertaining to an assignment lets students see starred comments of elements done well and stepped comments sharing areas for improvement. Peer assessors could be asked to provide a predetermined amount of stars and steps or be allowed to place them as they see fit (as long as both markings are utilized). Even younger students could easily complete the Star & Step strategy. This method can help students determine the areas of their work that need further attention and the elements that are done well.

To truly unlock the wonders of learning and enrichment, students must move beyond the one (attempt) and done mindset. By introducing them to techniques for self and peer assessment, they can begin to review their work and learning processes with a more thoughtful and purposeful lens. These 5 strategies are sure to help students get the most out of their educational endeavors.

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