Documentation:Learning Activities/General Peer Evaluation

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ACTIVITY 1. Peer Evaluation of Projects

1. I would characterize this as an extended peer assessment activity. Learners are developing individual projects, but the instructor's experience in the past is that the projects are rushed, poorly finished, often the marking criteria are referenced too late to permit in-depth responses to the requirement. The Peer Evaluation is successful for a number of reasons:

a. it forces learners to do an initial draft of their major project 7-10 days before the final project is due

b. learners get the benefit of feedback from a peer about the general quality of the project, and a peer's estimate of how the project meets (or fails to meet) the criteria for the assignment

c. in evaluating the peer evaluation the learner gets a different possibly deeper perspective on the meaning and weighting of the criteria for the project

d. the learners then get the opportunity to correct, fix and in some cases re-design their projects before submission for grading.

e. the exercise offers an opportunity to practices skills in the giving and receiving of feedback that are valuable

f. as the instructor reads and marks the peer evaluation reports it provides and opportunity to intervene if it is clear that some project has run off the tracks.

g. as the learners conduct the peer evaluation it provides an opportunity to clarify issues of interpretation of the project that otherwise might not be addressed until too late for correction.

h. with large projects the instructor does not always have sufficient time to provide timely formative assessment of the projects in development, feedback from peers, while sometimes variable in quality, is much better than no feedback at all.

i. this activity reduces the isolation of distance learners and promotes the notion of a learning community

2. The role of the instructor/facilitator is to

a.ensure that clear directions are given as to how the peer evaluation is to be conducted - estimated time, what to take notes of, mandatory items to report. This is in addition to the clear and concise directions and marking rubric for the projects.

b. ensure that everyone has a "partner" to exchange papers with, or in odd number cases that a "triad" is created.

c. provide timing reminders for the exchange of projects, and for the submission of the reports,

d. mark the submissions and provide feedback to individuals and the class

e. intervene in case of non-compliance by a participant to ensure that each learner receives formative assessment of their project. The role of the learner/participant is to

a. prepare their draft project with sufficient quality and completion that it is suitable for peer evaluation

b. exchange the project at the appropriate time

c. provide appropriate and complete comments about the general quality and effectiveness of the project as per the instructions provided

d. return comments to the "partner" and to the instructor at the appropriate time.

e. to thank their partner for their comments, to interpret them at face value and not get into a hissy-fit with their peer evaluator

f. to reflect on the comments and make adjustments as they see appropriate to their project

3. This activity works well when

a. there is sufficient independence of projects that it is not feasible for one student to copy from the other

b. there is sufficient time in the course schedule to allow an appropriate exchange, evaluation, commenting and correction

c. there is sufficient maturity among the learners to see the win-win benefit to the participants

d. the partners in the exchange have not worked closely together before so there is objectivity in the assessment

e. the criteria for evaluation are reasonably clear and aligned with the learning goals for the course

f. there is time to teach the learners how to review and provide effective comments on smaller activities before taking on large ones This activity fails when

a. there is improper coordination and advanced warning of the activity and partnering

b. there is no evaluation and marks associated with the peer evaluation reports

c. there is insufficient buy-in from any participant(s) to provide a proper reciprocal review

d. there is insufficient time in the course schedule to do a thorough evaluation

4. Barriers or constraints There are no real barriers or constraints, but it does take time and effort so the class as a whole needs to value the activity as an opportunity to get feedback on their projects. I think it would work well when the activity is carried over a number of courses so that it becomes second nature for the learners to ask for a peer evaluation in both academic and professional endeavors.

5. How to share with others A exemplar documenting the practice could be created, along with a set of templates for instructions, rubrics and guidelines. In this case, I can also share evaluation reports from the learners who have reflected on the value of the peer evaluation as both a learning activity and as a method of getting formative feedback on their major projects. I would recommend this practice whenever major projects are involved for final assessments - particularly in professional training where the goal is to achieve / demonstrate the highest level of competence possible.