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Peer-assessment is an approach to formative assessment which can be described generally as a process whereby students evaluate, or are evaluated by, their peers. Peer-assessment can be employed under a variety of conditions, and employ a diversity of methods to create the potential for many different outcomes to be achieved. For example, it can encompass activities ranging from the evaluation of a peer’s research report to providing qualitative feedback on a classmate’s presentation (Van Zundert et al., 2010). Peer-assessment, as a learning tool, enables students to develop skills to form judgements based on an understanding of intended learning outcomes and the criteria by which success can be measured. Students can be encouraged to give feedback to one another in terms of the desired outcomes and the prescribed criteria and encouraged to identify areas for future improvement. It is important to appreciate that learning is a two-way process in peer-assessment. Students may learn from the appraisal of their work by peers, but the assessor can also learn much in the process of evaluating the work and may well recognize shortcomings in their own work in the process of assessing the work of peers. In addition, as an assessment tool, peer-assessment can be used by teachers to provide information on the performance and contribution of individual students in group work activities (Cheng & Warren, 2000).
Formative peer-assessment often looks to provide constructive qualitative comments, referred to as “peer-feedback”, in addition to, or instead of specific marks (Gielen et al., 2010). Peer feedback can support the learning process by providing an intermediate check of performance against the designated criteria and standards, accompanied by feedback on strengths, weaknesses and/or tips for improvement (Falchikov & Goldfinch, 2000; Topping, 1998; Gibbs & Simpson, 2004).
Peer-assessment is an often neglected approach which is associated with the development of many key competences, such as using initiative and entrepreneurship, learning to learn and social competence, critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, risk assessment and decision-making.