Peer assessment is an arrangement for learners to consider and specify the level, value, or quality of a product or performance of other equal-status learners. Peer assessment and the idea of collaborative, team-based and problem-based learning lies at the core of Vygotsky's social constructivist theory. Whereas in the past we have seen assessment primarily as a means to measure the achievement of goals, there is now a belief that the potential goals of assessment are much wider and impinge on all stages of the learning process, and even beyond that (Gielen, Dochy, and Dierick 2003).

Goals of Peer Assessment:

1. Social Control:
  • Knowing that peers will assess your work, or your behavior, may be an external motivator to work harder and perform better. Students care what their peers think of them. Learners’ self-perceived academic competence and self-esteem are more powerfully affected by their peers’ evaluation than by their teacher’s.Creativity.jpg
  • Peer assessment may even induce students to create better quality work. Pope (2001, 243) reports that ‘the knowledge that the work will be rated by peers seems to induce students to write to a higher standard’.
  • Knowledge is not held by the teacher, but is socially distributed and is constructed through interaction.
  • Increases the amount feedback that students can be given on their work.

  • Group work is often problematic because although there is supposed to be an equal work load, not all members do their part. When workloads are not shared proportionally or group members do not contribute equally, a few members work harder than their irresponsible peers. Therefore, peer assessment is not enhancing learning but instead, hampering it.
  • Students generally initially question the ability of peers to assess their work, and the value of the feedback recieved.

2. Assessment tool:
  • when students are asked to grade, rank or rate each others’ products or performances, and/or to provide qualitative comments to their peers, this can serve two possible sub-goals:
    • convergence – is the goal for the peer and teacher to come together/be in agreement or students, peers and instructors rate student performances rather similarlyexternal image rubric.gif
    • completeness – to uncover the presence of multiple perspectives – do the teacher and students peers have the same standards or do group members have special knowledge related to being in the group?
  • Students will receive the benefits of peer assessment irregardless of if they believe it is a valuable activity or not (Kaufman & Schunn, 2011).

  • It is difficult to grade each team member systematically, according to their performance. One way to minimize the problems faced with this dilemma is to require students to evaluate their peers and themselves. By evaluating themselves, students are more likely to produce more realistic results.
  • Students tend to view themselves and their peers as too inexperienced to be making accurate and fair assessments of their work. This is especially true when students are receiving grades based on peer feedback (Kaufman & Schunn, 2011).

3. Learning Tool:
  • Provides a means of raising the learning of the assessor through the peer assessment activity: assessing for learning.
  • Reasons for these learning effects are twofold:
    • it allows students to operate at an evaluative level and to pose metacognitive questions. These are higher order learning activities that help the assessor acquire a deeper insight into the subject.
    • Students discover interesting ideas or alter-native approaches to the task when reading others’ work or observing others’ performances, and will incorporate these in their own work. In addition, they will probably also detect some weaknesses or mistakes by the others that will stimulate self-reflection and probably external image learning.JPG ead to a correction of similar flaws in their own work.
    • Secondly, Pryor and Lubisi (2002) mention that the assessment activity engages students to cognitively
  • Functions as a collaborative learning experience, especially when the assessor is expected to give formative and qualitative feedback. When assessor and assessee are encouraged to discuss differences in opinions and look for implications and solutions together. This feedback is more cognitively demanding of the assessor and more useful to the assessee than just marking each other’s performance.
  • Pharo and De Salas identified that 81% of their students told them that reviewing peers' work helped them to think about their own work and 69% thought that it helped them to think critically.
  • Contributes to the development of self-reliant and self-directed learners and assists in developing personal independence.

  • It is often difficult to evaluate the contributions of a team member to the team and to the project
  • Students in self or peer evaluation groups reported more stress than the students in the tutor only groups

4. Learn how to assess:
  • Students learn to become assessors through peer assessment.
  • Peer review can foster in the students the confidence to assess and develop knowledge for themselves rather than passively submitting material to an assessor who will judge if it is sufficient or ‘correct’
  • Learning-how-to-assess is an important part of becoming a lifelong learner. Lifelong learners are confronted with assessment of learning tasks they face throughout their lives (Boud 2000). They will benefit from knowing how to define appropriate criteria, and to determine themselves whether or not they meet these. Moreover, they should learn how to seek feedback from their environment, when a teacher is no longer available.
  • Students will likely give feedback with mitigating language, and positive elements which is often better received bexternal image sfc-map-printy students than the more direct and to the point feedback delivered by a teacher.

  • When students are never confronted with peer or self assessment, students may develop ‘learned dependence’, which does not go as far as ‘learned helplessness’, according to Yorke (2003). When peer assessment is not encouraged, students may be discouraged from developing to their full potential, because students remain dependent on the teacher or the examiner to make decisions about what they know. This area has not been studied extensively, but needs to be.
  • Students tend to assess themselves and their peers quite generously. Therefore, peer assessment may need to be implemented for a significant amount of time before accurate results can be expected.

5. Active participation tool:
  • Students are engaged as active participants in their own learning and assessment is the goal itself.
  • Peer assessments ‘can be viewed as vehicles for student empowerment’ (Stanier 1997)
  • Peer assessment, together with self-assessment, should be an aid in the liberation of the student, instead of serving as a new mechanism for oppression (Boud 1994). The shift in responsibility for assessment from the teacher to the student lea
  • external image Working_Together_Teamwork_Puzzle_Concept.jpgds to a greater democracy within the educational community (Searby and Ewers 1997; Somervell 1993).
  • Student empowerment associated with the use of these methods is difficult to monitor and, indeed, the benefits may be delayed.
  • No specific inquiry methods or criteria are found in the peer assessment literature yet.


Each goal or sub-goal defines different expectations regarding the tool of peer assessment, so it is not likely that an ‘ideal’ version of peer assessment can be designed that can comply with all wishes at the same time. However, it is likely that teachers want to combine some of the goals of peer assessment in the classroom to enhance and encourage learning.

Teacher Resources:

Article References

Gielen, S., Dochy, F., Onghena, P., Stuyven, K., Smeets, S. (2011). Goals of peer assessment and their associated quality concepts. Studies in Higher Education, 36(6). 719-735.

Kaufman, J. H., Schunn, C, D. (2011). Students' perceptions about peer assessment for writing: their origin and impact on revision work. Instructional Science, 39(3). 387-406. doi:10.1007/s11251-010-9133-6

Oncu, S., & Erhan, S. (2012). Peer Evaluation of Teamwork and Individual Student Achievement. e-Journal of New World Sciences Academy (NWSA), 13(2), 583-590.

Pharo, E., & De Salas, K. (2009). Implementing Student Peer Review: Opportunity versus Change Management. Journal Of Geography In Higher Education, 33(2), 199-207. doi:10.1080/03098260802276748

Wen, M., & Tsai, C. (2008). Online peer assessment in an inservice science and mathematics teacher education course. Teaching In Higher Education, 13(1), 55-67. doi:10.1080/13562510701794050