The act of grading someone else's paper [a.k.a., student peer grading, peer assessment; peer evaluation; self-regulated learning] is a cooperative learning technique that refers to activities conducted either inside or outside of the classroom whereby students review, evaluate, and, in some cases, actually recommend grades on the quality of their peer's work. Peer grading is usually guided by a rubric developed by the instructor. A rubric is a performance-based assessment tool that uses specific criteria as a basis for evaluation. An effective rubric makes grading more clear, consistent, and equitable.
Newton, Fred B. and Steven C. Ender. Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses. 2nd edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010; Ramon-Casas, Marta et al. “The Different Impact of a Structured Peer-Assessment Task in Relation to University Undergraduates’ Initial Writing Skills.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 44 (2019): 653-663.
Professors assign students to grade the work of their classmates because studies in educational research suggest that the act of grading someone else's paper increases positive learning outcomes for students. Professors use peer grading as a way for students to practice recognizing quality research, with the hope that this will carry over to their own work, and as an aid for improving group performance or determining individual effort on team projects. Grading someone else's paper can also enhance learning outcomes by empowering students to take ownership over the selection of criteria used to evaluate the work of peers [the rubric]. Finally, professors may assign peer grading as a way to engage students in the act of seeing themselves as members of a community of researchers.
Other potential benefits include:
Boud, David, Ruth Chen, and Jane Sampson. "Peer Learning and Assessment." Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 24 (1999): 413-426; Huisman, Bart et al. “The Impact of Formative Peer Feedback on Higher Education Students’ Academic Writing: A Meta-Analysis.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 44 (September 2019): 863-880; Dochy, Filip et al. "The Use of Self-, Peer, and Co-Assessment in Higher Education: A Review." Studies in Higher Education 24 (1999): 331-350; Falchikov, Nancy. Improving Assessment through Student Involvement: Practical Solutions for Aiding Learning in Higher and Further Education. New York: Routledge/Falmer, 2005; Huisman, Bart, Nadira Saab, Jan van Driel, and Paul van den Broek. “Peer Feedback on Academic Writing: Undergraduate Students’ Peer Feedback Role, Peer Feedback Perceptions and Essay Performance.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 43 (2018): 955-968; Ryan, Mary Elizabeth, editor. Teaching Reflective Learning in Higher Education: A Systematic Approach using Pedagogic Patterns. New York: Springer, 2014; Sadler, Philip M. and Eddie Good. "The Impact of Self- and Peer-Grading on Student Learning." Educational Assessment 11 (2006): 1-31;Topping, Keith J. “Peer Assessment.” Theory Into Practice 48 (2009): 20-27; Rachael Hains-Wesson. Peer and Self Assessment. Deakin Learning Futures, Deakin University, Australia.
I. Best Practices
Best practices in peer assessment vary depending on the type of assignment or project you are evaluating and the type of course you are taking. A good quality experience also depends on having a clear and accurate rubric that effectively presents the proper criteria and standards for the assessment. The process can be intimidating, but know that everyone probably feels the same way you do when first informed you will be evaluating the work of others--cautious and uncomfortable!
Given this, if not stated, the following questions should be answered by your professor before beginning:
II. What to Consider
When informed that you will be assessing the work of others, consider the following:
III. General Evaluative Elements of a Rubric
In the social and behavioral sciences, the elements of a rubric used to evaluate a writing assignment depend upon the content and purpose of the assignment. Rubrics are often presented in print or online as a grid with evaluative statements about what constitutes an effective, somewhat effective, or ineffective element of the content.
Here are the general types of assessment that your professor may ask you to examine or that you may want to consider if you are asked to help develop the rubric.
Grammar and Usage
The writing is free of misspellings. Words are capitalized correctly. There is proper verb tense agreement. The sentences are punctuated correctly and there are no sentence fragments or run-on sentences. Acronyms are spelled out when first used. The paper is neat, legible, and presented in an appropriate format. If there are any non-textual elements [e.g., charts, graphs, tables, pictures, etc.], assess whether they are labeled correctly and described in the text to help support an understanding the overall purpose of the paper.
Focus and Organization
The paper is structured logically. The research problem and supporting questions or hypotheses are clearly articulated and systematically addressed. Content is presented in an effective order that supports understanding of the main ideas or critical events. The narrative flow possesses overall unity and coherence and it is appropriately developed by means of description, example, illustration, or definition that effectively defines the scope of what is being investigated. Conclusions or recommended actions reflect astute connections to more than one perspective or point of view.
Elaboration and Style
The introduction engages your attention. Descriptions of ideas, concepts, events, and people are clearly related to the research problem. There is appropriate use of technical or specialized terminology required to make the content clear. Where needed, descriptions of cause and effect outcomes, compare and contrast, and classification and division of findings are effectively presented. Arguments, recommendations, best practices, or lessons learned are supported by the evidence gathered and presented. Limitations are acknowledged and described. Sources are selected from a variety of scholarly and creative sources that provide valid support for studying the problem. All sources are properly cited using a standard writing style.
Hodgsona, Yvonne, Robyn Benson, and Charlotte Brack. “Student Conceptions of Peer-Assisted Learning.” Journal of Further and Higher Education 39 (2015): 579-597; Getting Feedback. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Gueldenzoph, Lisa E. and Gary L. May. “Collaborative Peer Evaluation: Best Practices for Group Member Assessments.” Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 65 (March 2002): 9-20; Huisman, Bart et al. “Peer Feedback on College Students' Writing: Exploring the Relation between Students' Ability Match, Feedback Quality and Essay Performance.” Higher Education Research and Development 36 (2017): 1433-1447; Lladó, Anna Planas et al. “Student Perceptions of Peer Assessment: An Interdisciplinary Study.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 39 (2014): 592-610; Froyd, Jeffrey. Peer Assessment and Peer Evaluation. The Foundation Coalition; Newton, Fred B. and Steven C. Ender. Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses. 2nd edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010; Liu, Ngar-Fun and David Carless. “Peer Feedback: The Learning Element of Peer Assessment.” Teaching in Higher Education 11 (2006): 279-290; Peer Assessment Resource Document. Montreal, Quebec: Teaching and Learning Services, McGill University, 2017; Peer Review. Psychology Writing Center. Department of Psychology. University of Washington; Revision: Peer Editing--Serving As a Reader. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Peer Review. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Suñola, Joan Josep et al. “Peer and Self-Assessment Applied to Oral Presentations from a Multidisciplinary Perspective.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 41 (2016): 622-637; Writer's Choice: Grammar and Composition. Writing Assessment and Evaluation Rubrics. New York: Glencoe-McGraw-Hill, n.d.
Pay Close Attention to the Guiding Questions
Most forms of peer assessment include a set of open-ended questions that ask you to focus on aspects of the assignment that you can respond specifically to as an evaluator. These questions may ask you to summarize and critique parts of the paper or assess [or list, outline, or paraphrase] particular elements of the other student's paper as opposed to answering basic closed-ended questions that elicit only a yes/no response or making subjective judgements about the overall quality of the paper. Examples of guiding questions could include:
Peer Assessment Resource Document. Montreal, Quebec: Teaching and Learning Services, McGill University, 2017; Iglesias Pérez, M. C., J. Vidal-Puga, and M. R. Pino Juste. "The Role of Self and Peer Assessment in Higher Education." Studies in Higher Education 47 (2020): 1-10.