Peer Assessment and Self Assessment in Writing Activities

Peer assessment is very important because students accept criticism from the other colleagues more easily than from the teacher. The language that students should use when they correct each other should be the one they use naturally. When students do not understand something, they feel more comfortable if they interrupt a peer rather than a teacher.

In this way, students become responsible for what they correct, for the answers they give. This situation gives the teacher freedom of observation and reflection on what is going on during a lesson and it also gives him time to formulate useful involvement. However, in order to be effective learners must be properly trained in peer assessment and this will not happen overnight.

Benefits of peer assessment

  • Students become engaged in the learning process and start reflecting on their own learning which can be considered a much more profound experience. Students develop generic skills such as working cooperatively, they start thinking critically, give constructive feedback and they also learn from critical judgment that come from the other peers.
  • Students generally consider peer feedback a positive experience, the value of which they appreciate a lot, especially because they get engaged in a wide variety of activities such as class discussions and extended writing tasks.

Challenges of peer assessment:

  • Students may underestimate the importance of peer feedback for their learning and as a consequence they may avoid getting involved seriously.
  • Due to the fact that peer feedback does not count for the final grade, it can raise tension and students can reject the idea of criticizing their peers, therefore those who receive feedback may consider it subjective.
  • The grades that the peer give, tend to be higher than those given by the teacher
  • If students are not adequately prepared or if assessment criteria are not very clear, peers tend to invent their own criteria based on gender or friendship.
  • Some of the students may consider that they do not have enough knowledge or skills to give feedback to their peers.

Self assessment can be defined as a way of learning from your writing which offers students the chance to review and reflect upon the way their writing is developing. The aim of self assessment is to develop students’ capacity to identify their strengths and weaknesses which will help them become more independent, responsible and finally improve their writing skills.

Self-assessment, will work only if teachers try to help the students develop this skill. It will take time and practice to succeed. Learners need to be trained in self evaluation. When teachers decide to adopt peer and self assessment, they should be aware that this means more than checking for mistakes and weak points but rather making explicit what is implicit.

A very useful thing to know regarding self assessment is the right time to do this. When writing a draft, students’ main focus should be on getting ideas down and not worrying about grammar and spelling. In her book entitled “Techniques in Teaching Writing Skills”, Ann Raimes (1991) thinks that teachers should let students know that, at a first draft, they are never expected perfect grammar rules or correct spelling. After they have got their ideas down, they can proceed to grouping and regrouping them; the focus on sentence accuracy should develop gradually, from draft to draft.

Strategies for self assessment:

  • Students should be given direct and explicit training before doing self assessment exercise.
  • Teachers should help students understand clearly different aspects such as purpose, tone, style etc.
  • A very useful technique is to use models in order to show them specific writing skill; in this way students can easily learn the concepts and the teacher can correct any misunderstandings before the actual self-assessment process starts.
  • Students can participate in the process of devising criteria for self assessment; in this way students can easily understand what good writing is.
  • If teachers make self- assessment part of the grade, they will certainly increase their motivation and they will end up being committed to the task
  • During self assessment students can be engaged in dialogues in order to give feedback, answer questions and clarify different aspects of writing.
  • Positive feedback, reinforcement and modeling will make students feel that they are efficient and their self-esteem will certainly rise.
  • After self-assessment students should revise their work in order to be able to transfer what they have learnt to writing.

Raimes, Ann, Exploring Through Writing, Cambridge University Press, 1998;
Scrivener, Jim, Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching, Macmillan, 1994.

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