This week in my world of graduate studies, we examined the effectiveness of peer evaluation. Having peers evaluate each others’ work is just one of many options Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are exploring in order to handle the large enrollment numbers. However, as we study the pros and cons of peers evaluation, it is important to think about how we would feel with another peer, we didn’t know, examining our work.

There are plenty of things I really dislike, including birds and heights, but one of my prominent fears is receiving scrutiny from my peers. Having your writing reviewed by anyone, especially by a peer who you have never met, is a pretty intimidating thing. How do you know they are taking it seriously? How do you know they are not talking trash about your work with others? All these are fears I have had my entire life.

Although I see the possible value of effective peer evaluation systems (as mentioned in Online Learning Insights), I am afraid to fully commit to it. We live in a society that generally looks down upon failure, and therefore, we are less open to being critiqued by our peers, or anyone else for that matter. I saw it each and everyday in my own 8th grade classroom where my students would be hesitant to experiment, but were eager for me to “just tell them the answers”. Even though I am not praising this aspect of society, it is part of the world we live in, and shouldn’t be ignored when designing MOOCs.

At this moment in time, Automated Essay Scoring (AES) is a valid option for grading essays in MOOCs. As Justin Reich mentioned in his blog on EdTechTeacher, there is a correlation between essays scored by AES and by professors. AES appears to be highly accurate and a good balance for participants in MOOCs.

This feeling needs to be remedied before peer evaluation is ever going to become an effective grading tool. (Source)

Don’t get me wrong, peer evaluations definitely have a place in the learning process and should be utilized much more frequently, but it should be a formative assessment and not a summative one. Our educational system and society at large would be greatly enhanced if we were able to truly accept experimentation and failure. Until we foster this at a young age, risk taking will continue to be limited among teens and adults in society.

Peer evaluation places a large responsibility on the grader and grade recipient, neither of which have ever really been trained in these roles. The grader probably rarely was taught how to provide effective feedback and constructive critiques. The grade recipient probably never was trained to value their peers’ opinions nor were they taught it was okay to have areas for improvement. Forcing participants to be at the whim of a peer evaluation system for their summative grade seems illogical, especially when AES systems are in place that align with the social norms we are more familiar with.


1 Comment so far

  1. Patrice on October 4, 2014 6:17 pm

    I really like your point on training the graders and recipients. While students may have learned to accept criticism from a higher figure, I have found some view peer criticism as a personal attack. My own experience with peer grading was more focused on the grader side. There was so much variability in evaluation because graders were not taught how to provide such feedback. When using peer evaluation, I think it’s necessary to teach students how to go beyond just commenting “Good job!”

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