Peer Assessment in a Year 1 Placement module: developing skills for effective learning

The School of Education recognises that first year university students do not acquire the necessary skills to be an effective learner simply by attending classes (Lines, 2005). It is the role of the university to support students in developing the skills that will be required throughout their time at university. Miles et al (2008) suggest that this is an entitlement, not an additional service. This issue has become increasingly important as the sector welcomes a more diverse student population.

The year one School of Education module "Placement and Curriculum" has a roll of over two hundred and fifty students from across all subjects in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences. All students undertake a seventy hour placement working with children from 0 to 14 years in a place of the student’s choosing. To accommodate the diverse student body and the wide variety of placements undertaken, the assessment for this module consists of a placement log, report from the placement provider and reflection on the overall placement experience. 

To assist the students in preparing for the submission of their assessment tasks for this module, a range of support is put in place. Throughout both semesters, tutors take time during class to talk to students about their placement experience and the contents of their placement log. Students have the opportunity to ask questions and to talk to their peers about their experiences, their reflections on these experiences and the assessment tasks set for this module. In the lead up to the assignment submission, students participate in two formative assessment activities.

  1. Students provide peer feedback on the placement log of another student. A tutor-led session is organised to work through and discuss the criteria for the placement log with the students. This helps establish the requirements of each criterion. In the role of assessor, the student must then provide feedback on each individual section of their peer’s placement log. The feedback form is returned to the owner of the placement log and is included in the assessment submission for this module. However, in order to make this assessment task truly formative, the recipient of the feedback is required to provide their response to the feedback they received. Students are expected to act upon the advice given by their peer to enhance their placement log before submission. Only specific items of the log are submitted to the tutor for grading as the detailed peer feedback is sufficient to make a judgement about the overall grade for this part of the assessment package.
  2. Students provide advice and feedback on a draft copy of another student’s overall reflective evaluation. At the final tutorial for this module all students bring a draft copy of their overall evaluation. Students are given the feedback sheet and marking guidelines that tutors use when grading and providing feedback on students’ work. Students spend time discussing the criteria and the tutor supports them in understanding the meaning of the different grading bands set out by the university. Students spend time reading and providing feedback on their peer’s assignment using the university marking system to influence their grading and their comments. Each student then has at least a week to utilise this feedback to enhance their overall evaluation before submission. This is a less formal assessment process and the students are not required to submit this feedback with their other assignment tasks.

It is important that students understand the tasks they are set for any assignment. It is equally important that they have a clear understanding of the criteria and of how the marking team approaches the process of assessing and providing feedback on their work. Peer assessment, supported by the tutor, is an effective way of students developing the skills they require to self-assess their own submissions in future while providing useful and informative feedback that allows their peer to enhance their own writing before submission. We know that students who are made aware of the expectations of higher education, and who are given the opportunity to develop the skills to help them achieve these, will have the best chance of progressing through their chosen course (Lines, 2006). 

Amanda Corrigan
Module Leader, BA Year 1, Placement and Curriculum