Peer assessment : educationally effective and resource efficient
Peer assessment was included within a Level 4 Human Physiology module at the Univer-sity of Hertfordshire following a periodic programme review during the academic year 2006-2007. The peer assessment exercise was thought to be beneficial in terms of student learning as it: engaged students explicitly with marking criteria; stimulated dialogue around assessment and feedback and ensured prompt feedback. It was beneficial for staff as it reduced the marking burden and enabled students to receive prompt feedback on their work. Performance on subsequent laboratory reports supported the argument that peer assess-ment enhanced student learning and that the skills associated with data analysis and aca-demic writing can be transferred across modules. Comparison of student performance on a laboratory report (tutor assessed) submitted prior to the peer assessment activity, with a later submission of a laboratory report (tutor assessed) which took place after the peer assessment activity, demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in performance on the second assignment (p<0.001). However, a number of possible confounding factors could also have influenced student improvement e.g. improved understanding over time; differing support provision for the two assignments, differing requirements in terms of the nature of the assignments and differing staff members teaching and assessing the assign-ments. The introduction of a reflective questionnaire to the peer assessment process, during the 2009-2010 academic year enabled better understanding of the student perceptions of peer assessment. Of those students who responded, 77% indicated that peer assessment was beneficial for their learning. Over 80% indicated that they had benefited from being engaged with the marking criteria prior to writing the report and perhaps most importantly, 83% indicated that they felt better prepared for their next laboratory report as a conse-quence of the peer assessment activity. The feedback supports the argument that the peer assessment activity did support student learning and was beneficial for future assign-ments. Peer assessment therefore offers the potential to benefit student learning as well as being a resource efficient assessment method for staff.