Some thoughs on effectiveness of peer grading/reviews in general. Prompted by Rees, J. (2013). “Peer grading can’t work.” (Inside Higher Ed.)

Just some thoughts on Peer Grading/evaluation, prompted by Rees (2013). Often times we are deadline oriented, and somewhat forced to put our best raw material out there. This means that maybe the materials is not exactly ready to be graded/evaluated in the first place. And, in terms of peer grading/evaluation: maybe the material is simply not ready for a review, it’s just too raw? In other words, a student didn’t put the polished enough product out there and all the peer suggestions would not be a real contribution, but rather a highlight of what the student knows already: it’s just too early in the process to be assessed.

On the other hand, if a student did produced the “intermediate final” work or just got stuck and truly needs an input from the outside – this is where the peer review can come handy. With a “but”, however.

And this “but” refers to who are the peer-graders? What sort of an expertise or an adequate input do they have and whether this input/expertise matches the need of an evaluation (e.g. sometimes a view of a layperson is most valuable, should the product be geared towards the general public).

So, the “verdict” here is: the peer grading/review is not useless, nor is it invaluable. It is a tool, which can work under the two conditions:

1)      the work is at a stage ready for grading/evaluation

  1. because a student believes he/she reached an appropriate milestone (and not because he/she was forced to deliver something just to fit into a deadline);
  2. because a student is stuck and needs an input from the outside.

2)      Peers possess the quality needed for the specific evaluation

  1. Certain expertise (to provide the valuable feedback on technicalities)
  2. Matching properties (e.g. a layperson if the work is meant to reach laypeople).

We shall see how the peer review/grading will unfold in MOOCs in real time.


1 Comment »

  1. Karen WM

    September 30, 2014 @ 6:24 pm


    Hi AT– thanks for the distillation of that article. Two thoughts:
    + people should also consider how much the reviewer might learn by reviewing someone else’s work. Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach.
    + there’s a way to provide feedback that’s helpful– perhaps it would help to teach people how to review

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