What is Structured Peer Assessment?

Getting students to mark each others’ work has two huge advantage – it is brilliantly formative and it saves you a ton of time. But how accurate is it? And how do you validate that it really is helping students learn?

Structured Peer Assessment (SPA) is our patented system to deliver accurate, demonstrably-formative peer assessment. Here is what it looks like from the student perspective.

The theory behind SPA comes from Alastair Pollitt’s seminal 2004 paper Let’s stop marking exams (pdf) which introduced the concept of Comparative Judgement (CJ) and led to a number of initiatives.

The core idea behind CJ is this: instead of trying to mark one piece of work against a strict set of criteria – a scoring rubric – CJ presents the marker with pairs of answers and simply asks “which is better?” Multiple markers work in a team, so that each answer is assessed by several different people, against multiple other answers. By processing all these comparisons through an appropriate algorithm, those data can be converted into a rank order for all answers, and thus into grades.

The big benefit is that you escape from the straightjacket of highly-prescriptive rubrics that tend to reward rote learning of certain key words and phrases, and instead you can choose to reward such attributes as clear logic or narrative flair.

And the downside? Well, accuracy requires that each student’s answer be seen 30 times. Some of those decisions can be made almost instantly but some require considerable thought. Whilst it has been claimed that CJ is quicker than conventional marking, I and others have yet to be convinced.

But… if the students are doing the marking, that doesn’t matter! In fact it is a benefit. More time on task = more learning. We actually ask students to spend as long on the marking task as they did on the writing task.

This was the insight that led to SPA, but we didn’t stop there. We added an extra element: students must also state their reasons for preferring one answer over another. This does two things; it forces the student to think through their rationale, and it provides a trove of formative feedback for the original writer of the answer.

And to encourage students to write thoughtful, positive feedback, we gamify it by allowing students to reward each other with ‘badge points’ for particularly good explanations.

From all this, you actually get three three useful sets of marking data:

  • All the answers are ranked according to the collective decision of the students.
  • Students accuracy as markers is also ranked. Technically we take a statistical measure of conformance to consensus.
  • We also report a combined average of the two.

Depending on the summative function of the assessment, any one of these three can be converted to grades simply by deciding where the grade boundaries should go.

More importantly than that, SPA gives you a strongly formative assessment tool that really puts the students in charge of their own learning.

 

Structured Peer Assessment reviewed by Adam Williams

adamThis guest post is by Adam Williams, Teacher of IT and Computer Science, City of Norwich School an Ormiston Academy.

I have trialled Structured Peer Assessment exercises over the last few weeks with my classes. When I first saw it pop up as a new way of getting structured written work out of students I jumped at the chance. They are focused both during their own responses and even more so when they are giving feedback on others.

Following the lesson, the structure of their writing for long mark questions has dramatically improved and the amount of waffle has reduced.

I had planned to block out one of my whole one hour sessions to trial this initially but due to time constraints of the lesson I ended up with about 40 minutes left . To start with I showed them the video provided on the website and set the question “People often want to buy the latest smartphone or other computing device, even though the devices they own still work. Discuss the impact of people wanting to upgrade to the latest smartphone. In your answer you might consider the impact on: * stakeholders * technology * ethical issues * environmental issues!”
and set them off with 30 minutes, leaving a little bit of time for feedback at the end of the session.

They took it very seriously (They are an optional GCSE class taking my subject as an extra option) They could see the benefits themselves. Responses to other students was purposeful and exceptionally useful for them to draw out misconceptions and I love that I can pick up their answers afterwards, display them on the board and dissect where and why they would be picking up/losing marks and how they compare with other answers. They also quite liked being high up on the leaderboards as ranked by their peers.

From their feedback they would have preferred a little bit less time on the feedback as they felt it was just too long to be reading through the same content worded slightly differently a number of times.

Following the lesson, the structure of their writing for long mark questions has dramatically improved and the amount of waffle has reduced. They are now more succinct and have learned over a few of these that sometimes quality over quantity in an exam question is good.

Structured Peer Assessment demo course now published

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Imagine asking one of your classes a deep, but deceptively-simple, question. Have them judge each others’ answers anonymously, give their reasons for the judgements, then assess the reasons as well. At the end of the process you get a mark. Automatically.

No exercise books, no late-night marking sessions. Just high-quality formative assessment. Empowered, gamified, peer-supported learning that just works.

Now imagine running this lesson with an Ofsted inspector in your classroom. Think they’d be impressed? So do I.

So you can try SPA for yourself, I have created this set of demonstration exercises you can assign to your students. It costs nothing so give it a go.

Here are a few examples of SPA questions. Add your own!

  • You are a serf in a Norman village. Describe your day.
  • Where would you rather live – Singapore or Dubai? Why?
  • How could you use a barometer to determine the height of a tower?
  • Why can a cheetah run faster than a gazelle?
  • Explain why metals are sometimes defined as plasmas.
  • How would you measure the volume of a dog?

SPA is a technology we patented several years ago and have been quietly working on ever since. This is the first time we’ve had it available in the main Yacapaca interface.

Start here

 

Using Peer Feedback statements in plenaries

My thanks to Beth Evans, of The Queen Elizabeth’s High School, Gainsborough for this idea.

Beth wrote “I did screen shot one question that came up whilst I was testing a quiz I had written and used it as a plenary to the previous* lesson as part of the critera setting for the next task.”
* I think this should have been “next”.

This is a fantastic idea. It should be easy to train your students to screenshot particularly challenging choices and Continue reading