Using Peer-Assessment

This section provides information on how to use peer-assessment in an online environment.

There are two main questions you should ask yourself before deciding whether or not to use peer-assessment in your online course:

  1. What are the benefits of using peer-assessment as an instructor and for my students?
  2. Does peer-assessment suit my course, my students, and my assessments?


  • critiquing an essay introductory paragraph;
  • evaluating group member performance;
  • critiquing a draft of a lab report.

1. What are the benefits of using peer-assessment?

The benefits of using peer assessment can be broken down into three themes:

  1. Benefits for your students as assessors of their peers;
  2. Benefits for your students as learners of content (as a result of being assessed by their peers);
  3. Benefits for you as in instructor

Benefits for Your Students as Learners of Content
Although it is erroneous to assume that peer-assessment will always have a positive impact on student learning (Sridharan & Boud, 2019), students have been shown to achieve higher academic performance, gain domain-specific skills, and improve self-assessment skills through a peer-assessment practice (Panadero & Alqassab, 2019; Stančić, 2020). Moreover, in comparison to receiving feedback from instructors, students who are assed by their peers are exposed to a greater volume and variety of perspectives on course content and this has been shown to translate to a greater depth of learning course content and breadth of application (Sridharan & Boud, 2019).

Benefits for Your Students as Assessors of Their Peers
Giving students the opportunity to act as a peer assessor in your course can provide many short-term and long-term benefits (Stančić, 2020). The primary benefactor of the process of peer-assessment has been shown to be the assessor and not the one being assessed (Donia et al., 2018). When students are charged with the task of assessing another students' work, they need to have a strong understanding of the content. Embodying the role of the assessor has also been shown to improve interpersonal skills like trust (van Gennip et al., 2009) and to improve socially collaborative tasks such as group work (Panadero & Alqassab, 2019).

Benefits for You as an Instructor
There are also benefits of peer-assessment for the instructor. Using peer-assessment in your course can save you loads of time. Peer-assessment can relieve you of providing individual formative feedback for all of your students multiple times. This is especially helpful in large classes where it may be impossible for you to assess each student's work formatively.

2. Does peer-assessment suit my course, my students, and my assessments?

Deciding whether or not to use peer-assessment in your course depends largely on three interconnected factors:

  1. The purpose and procedure of your course;
  2. Your instruction;
  3. The types of assessments you use.

Course Structure
Each course is unique so we recommend that instructors consider if peer-assessment is suitable for your course. Consider the temporal aspects of your course. Students may require up to a week to assess their peers' work. This is suitable in non-condensed courses such as those held over the entire Fall and Winter terms since there is more time between assigning the work and taking in student work. Also, as many technologies can provide students the ability to use peer assessment online, peer assessment are suitable for courses with students in various locations across the globe.

Your Instruction
Consider the stage of development of your students. Some students may feel unprepared to provide reliable and valid feedback and thus will feel ill-equipped to undertake the assessment. You can help mitigate this through careful scaffolding by modelling the assessment practice and providing clear expectations for the students.Your students may not have the knowledge and skills needed to assess others' work, especially if they have not previously completed peer assessments. To help students get the most out of the peer assessment experience, we suggest coaching students on giving effective feedback in a collegial atmosphere. If students are provided with clear guidelines on what they're expected to assess, by providing an exemplar and a rubric for example, even students early in their post-secondary learning experience can benefit from using peer-assessment (Stančić, 2020; Panadero & Alqassab, 2019).

Types of Assessments You Use
Peer-assessment works well when students are asked to apply learned content in a creative and constructive manner, such as an essay or a performance. Formative peer assessment can also be used to better prepare students for quizzes and exams as it incentivizes students to know the content well. Also, if the assessments in your course call for a critical analysis of student work, peer assessments can offer students many different perspectives in feedback on their work.



Introductory Paragraph

Hooi Ling's English 101 instructor has asked the class to prepare an introductory paragraph to share with her classmates. The instructor hoped that the paragraph can eventually be used in an upcoming essay which will be marked and included in the term grade. The purpose of this exercise is help the students prepare an effective thesis statement. The instructor would like the students to evaluate each others' paragraph and provide some constructive feedback. After carefully coaching and exemplifying the quality of an effective thesis statement, the instructor has placed students into breakout rooms on Zoom where they can share their introductory paragraphs verbally (and textually using the chat function) in small groups. The instructor popped in on the groups as they provided feedback and observed how the students assessed each other. Once the breakout rooms close, the instructor pointed out some great things and areas of confusion that were observed to further instruct the students.


Group Project

Hooi Ling's Engineering Earth Science instructor has decided that the final assignment for the class is a group Powerpoint research project that reports on the findings of some recent academic empirical literature. The instructor is keen to include peer-assessment in order for the students to assess their fellow group members. Hooi Ling's instructor decides to use the eClass Group Peer Assessment module which uses numeric scores and qualitative textual feedback. The assessment items are configurable and include options to allow self-assessment (for comparison), and to allow students to view anonymized comments and scores provided by other group members.


Lab Report

Hooi Ling is responsible for writing a lab report as an assignment in her Biology course. Her instructor has given the class thorough instruction on how lab reports are to be completed. Hooi Ling and many of her classmates would like the instructor to provide feedback on a draft of their lab reports so they can improve upon it before the assignment is due. While there is an appreciation that the students would benefit from getting feedback, the instructor doesn't have time to give immediate feedback before the assignment is due. The instructor decides to use Aropä, a free web-based peer-evaluating tool, which allows students to upload their drafts for their peers to anonymously (or not) evaluate their lab reports and identify areas of potential growth.


Donia, M. B., O'Neill, T. A., & Brutus, S. (2018). The longitudinal effects of peer feedback in the development and transfer of student teamwork skills. Learning and Individual Differences, 61, 87-98.

Panadero, E., & Alqassab, M. (2019). An empirical review of anonymity effects in peer assessment, peer feedback, peer review, peer evaluation and peer grading. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(8), 1253-1278.

Sridharan, B., & Boud, D. (2019). The effects of peer judgements on teamwork and self-assessment ability in collaborative group work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(6), 894-909. 

Stančić, M. (2020). Peer assessment as a learning and self-assessment tool: A look inside the black box. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, (ahead of print), 1 - 13.

van Gennip, N., Segers, M., & Tillema, H. H. (2009). Peer assessment for learning from a social perspective: The influence of interpersonal variables and structural features. Educational Research Review, 4(1), 41–54.

Watters, A. (2012). The problems with peer grading in Coursera. Inside Higher Ed.