Friday, April 13, 2012

Yes Peermark

Since my involvement with the Evidence Based Practice theme for the new Bachelor of Nursing began I have been disappointed that we've been pretty conservative with some of our assignments. But I now think there is a serious danger of missed opportunity here when we could do something more innovative and engaging, better for students and staff.
I'm thinking of
We already have this at Cardiff University, it is an extension of Grademark and Turnitin. We are in process of rolling Grademark out to all our programmes following the biggest UK pilot of the system. I want students to anonymously mark one (or more) their peers' assignments, with a right of appeal to the academic who would normally perform the 1st marker role. I am asking for this because, for the first time in about ten years, I have been engaged in 'proper' marking (for our PGCE programme). You probably think I want to avoid the task. Actually I have realised again what a powerfully generative learning experience it is. I find myself incredibly motivated to check my own understanding, root about in the literature, and come to a conclusion I feel I can defend. This is why markers are able to stay current with the topic they teach and assess. It seems immoral we should continue to keep all that intrinsic motivation to ourselves. Since we have already adopted Grademark, Peermark is within easy reach. If we can find a way to do this for merely the students' first assignment, we should.
The workflow would only need to be adjusted slightly. Bring the deadline for submission a week forward, giving students a week to mark one of their peers papers. Peermark has a sophisticated answer to the issue of non-engagement by the students (see their FAQs):
Reviews written for papers in a PeerMark assignment can be graded after the PeerMark assignment's due date. To grade an individual review click on "Edit Grades" at the expanded student's list of reviews. Then enter a score on a scale of 0-10 for the individual review. The average score (as a percentage) for all the reviews a student has written will be calculated and applied to the total point value for the assignment (e.g. if a student was assigned two reviews and received a 5/10 for one review and a 7/10 for the second review, the student would receive 60% of the total points possible for the assignment as a default final grade). Click "Save Grades" to save the review scores that have been entered. To edit the final grade for a student's PeerMark assignment after entering grades for individual reviews, enter the preferred score in the Grade column to the right of the student's name before clicking "Save Grades".
University of Glamorgan have been here already (of course!): see this poster. I love the quote, 'sometimes I feel I do not have enough knowledge to mark my mates'. That is the critical moment of realisation which should prompt the individual into active learning. It is not a negative, as presented in the findings, but a major positive. 


Joe said...

I agree Mike, a peer-based approach to feedback on assignments is potentially a valuable learning experience for all concerned. However, I think your challenge is getting staff and students to recognise that the process you're suggesting is more than doing a summative assessment for accrediation. My feeling is that students will need a lot of support taking this on - because if they're already unable to be critical and evaluative about the stuff they produce themselves it will be even more challenging for them to construct sensible feedback on something unfamiliar. I appreciate that going through this pain and anxiety IS the learning process, but I can see the value in having sessions before and after that illustrate what is required to assess well and provide quality feedback, i.e., what questions should they be asking of the text, if they don't understand what has been written what should they do? how should they write constructive feedback? how should they deal with poor spelling, grammar, structure, etc. Very challenging for teachers let alone students in the early stages of developing these literacies.

Mike Johnson said...

Thanks for the cautionary note Joe. I just wanted to add that I've just come across a paper about it which agrees with you and explains how the preparation was done: