The importance of peer and self assessment
17 September 2010
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Headteacher, Beverly Swain, discusses how peer and self assessment are benefiting children at her school
Assessment for Learning
When the past government introduced Assessment for Learning (AfL) it shaped the way in which children evaluate their own work and the work of others. Evaluation is an important academic and life skill; the ability to reflect upon work and achievements can help establish, through individual assessment targets, where children are in their learning process, where they need to go and how best to get there. Many schools are already committing themselves to developing strategies to promote and support this idea, motivating children to strive to obtain the highest standards of work that they can.
Peer and self assessment are two elements that make up AfL. Peer assessment enables children to provide each other with valuable feedback on work so that they can learn from and support each other. The opportunity to discuss, explain and challenge each other adds a valuable dimension to learning overall. Self assessment provides the opportunity to promote independent learning to children, helping them to take increasing responsibility for their own progress as they form judgements about their own work.
The differences between peer and self assessment
Peer assessment is usually introduced to young children before self assessment, as this helps them to develop the ability to give constructive criticism to their classmates, before applying it to their own work. By teachers standing back and allowing peers to examine each other’s work, children become more comfortable listening to each other, and are able to take control of their own development – with teachers ready to step in when required to effectively guide the process.
In self assessment, children are able to take the lessons they have learned from peer assessment and apply them to their own work to effectively establish an insight into their own performance. It is much easier to examine your own work once you have a marker of standards to work from. Peer assessment has a key role to play in the development process, as I have witnessed at Harold Court Primary School. As headteacher, I have seen the children, especially the less confident individuals who shy away from activities, get a chance to be ‘hands on’ with other children’s work and their own work, preparing them for the more unassisted teaching styles that they will encounter in later life, especially at college and university.
Being able to look at one’s own work and see where and how to improve it is an essential skill that children use throughout education and into adult life. Informing children of and nurturing these skills at a young age ensures that they can have a secure handle on them as they progress through life.
Peer and self assessment in practice
At Harold Court Primary School we have increasingly incorporated AfL into our curriculum and believe it is now significant in the education process as a whole. We have seen that through AfL, children’s confidence has not only grown but their communicative skills have increased.
Peer assessment does present a challenge in needing to involve the whole class to maximise its benefits. Engaging with all the children, including those sitting at the back, can sometimes prove difficult, but the teachers at Harold Court Primary School have found ways to overcome this through a combination of new techniques and equipment. Teachers use examples of ‘model’ work to demonstrate a benchmark of expectations of quality that is incredibly useful. Teachers at our school record their modelling examples on an Elmo visualiser – a piece of technology that allows you to project the image of an object onto a whiteboard. We have found that this saves Harold Court money as it reduces the need to photocopy information and produce copies for each child.
A recent example where Harold Court Primary School employed peer assessment is in D&T lessons. These lessons can present a challenge in how to most efficiently and accurately assess children in whole groups due to the required time and creativity of the subject. Using a visualiser in the classroom provided the opportunity to provide feedback on observational drawings of a bicycle the children were asked to create. When the work was assessed, the teacher placed each drawing under the camera where the image was projected onto the whiteboard at the front, allowing the children to see the work in detail. This was the first time we had tried this technique, and were pleased when the children actually asked for their work to be returned so they could improve on it!
Self assessment has allowed the children at Harold Court Primary School to identify their own individual strengths and weaknesses, and bring these to regular pupil progress meetings held throughout the school year. Each child has the opportunity to individually go through their targets and learning objectives and plan what is required for these to be achieved on their personalised learning journeys.
Flying the flag for peer and self assessment
I believe that education’s core function is to prepare children for the future, enabling them to learn key skills that can be applied to a variety of situations. Skills are developed best in a focused environment that ensures that the individual talents and potential of each child is recognised and built upon.
It is crucial therefore that peer and self assessment are central to the learning process. In their freedom from subject specialism, peer and self assessment can be embedded throughout the education process across a broad spectrum of subjects and ensure that teachers, as the experts in education, guide children in helping themselves along their individual learning journeys in which assessment and evaluation can be paramount.
Image © Chris Schmidt/istockphoto.com