The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) related to peer review has a forty-year history. ERIC search returns 2065 hits for (“peer assessment” OR “peer review”). Hundreds of studies have attested to its benefits, in fields ranging from accounting the past twenty years, peer review has increasingly migrated to the online environment. to engineering to social science.
Peer assessment is aligned with two modern trends in education: competency-based curriculum, and the involvement of students in assessment. Competency-based instruction ensures that students master designated course objectives, while student involvement in the assessment process focuses on developing higher-level skills (learning to learn, communication, information processing, problem solving, and self-reflection). The overriding goal of peer assessment is to provide timely, actionable feedback to learners. Peer feedback can be confirmatory, suggestive, or corrective.
Feedback can reduce errors and have positive effects on learning when it is received thoughtfully and positively. It is also essential to the development and execution of self-regulatory skills. In his synthesis of over 500 meta-analyses, Hattie found feedback to be among the top influences on student achievement with an average effect size of .79 Feedback in the form of cues—such as peer-review comments—had effects sizes approaching 1.0.
Peer assessment is associated with gains for assessors, assessees, or both. These gains can include increased levels of time on task and practice, coupled with a greater sense of accountability. The process of reviewing can also directly impact student learning outcomes, like writing competency. Recent studies suggest reviewers’ writing skills improved as a result of engaging in the reviewing process.
Formative peer assessment is likely to involve intelligent questioning, coupled with increased self-disclosure and, thereby, assessment of understanding. In addition, peer assessment can enable earlier error and misconception identification and analysis, which can lead to the identification of knowledge gaps and engineering their closure. Peer assessment can also increase reflection and generalization to new situations, promoting self-assessment and greater metacognitive self-awareness. Cognitive and metacognitive benefits can accrue before, during, or after the peer assessment. That is, sleeper effects are possible.
Peer review and assessment add value as learning tools by exposing students to the practice of evaluating others’ performance and receiving feedback on one’s own performance. Moreover, peer assessment enables learning at high cognitive levels. Peer assessment delivers numerous benefits to learning and co-creation for both the assessor and the assesee. Through social constructivism, peer assessment helps subjects recognize strengths and weaknesses of their creative process, identify target areas for remedial action, develop metacognitive skills and self-efficacy, and enhance their reflection and problem-solving abilities during collaborative learning. In addition, peer assessment enriches subjects’ interpersonal relationships, and higher levels of student interaction have been linked to increased student satisfaction and academic performance.