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Formative peer & self-assessment tasks to enhance student performance

How we assess our students has a profound effect on what they learn and how they learn.  Assessment that is primarily summative in its function gives students very little information about their learning and offers scant opportunity for feedback. The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning by providing ongoing feedback that can be used by students to improve their learning and advice on how it can be improved and the feedback can also be used by staff to identify where students are struggling and address problems immediately.  Students are guided on what they are expected to learn and what quality work looks like.  The ultimate purpose of formative assessment is to create self-regulated learners who can leave higher education able and confident to continue learning throughout their lives.  

However increased student numbers and increased student diversity is a fact of Higher Education today and a consequence of having large classes is that providing students with feedback in a timely manner is difficult.  Providing feedback in large classes can mean an unacceptable burden on staff still, we know, both from our experiences and from research, that feedback is essential.

 The use of peer and self-assessment & feedback, where students assess each other and themselves, can help students to take greater responsibility for their learning by encouraging engagement with assessment criteria and reflection of their own performance and that of their peers. Benefits can include both improved academic performance and increased motivation and confidence.  Furthermore students have commented in module evaluation [1] about the comfort that peer assessment/feedback provides as they see the peer group as being supportive and helpful. 

The accompanying grid gives examples of assessment strategies that can help students become more active in their learning & can help to change the nature of learning from a passive process where they are onlookers, to active self-regulated study where students are more motivated to learn and report more enjoyment of the course materials.  The activities also enable students develop their assessment literacies: to better understand assessment criteria and their application to submitted work. 

If you need more information please contact Karen Fraser at

[1] Independent learning: student perspectives and experiences Liz Thomas, Christine Hockings, James Ottaway and Robert Jones

There must be clear expectations of the module outcomes including detailed and timely information and exemplars on each assessment piece to allow students to improve & refine both self and peer assessment.  Interpreting and providing feedback is an important part of the learning process.  Use a scaffolding technique which can be progressively removed as students become more confident in their own abilities.