Black and William (1998) define assessment as all those activities undertaken by teachers, and students in assessing themselves, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. There are two major types of assessment, formative assessment and summative assessment. And thus, Peer assessment is one of the forms of formative assessment.
Besides, Higher Education Academy- UK, (2006) is an alternative form of assessment in which learners are given the opportunity to measure and evaluate each others compliments of the specified learning outcomes. It is used to involve students more closely in their learning and its evaluation and enable them to really understand what is required of them. (Phil et al 2006) This is a form of formative assessment which teachers can use in class assignments, tests, presentations, project based work and practical tasks.
These tasks can be performed by learners either in pairs, by multiple assessors or in groups. It is where learners consider and specify the level, value or quality of a product or performance of other equal status learners (Topping, 2008). This therefore means that learners are able to learn better because they assess their peers work and give appropriate feedback which helps them to improve their own work. It also leads to a number of benefits in terms of the learning process for instance encouraging thinking, increasing learning and increasing students confidence
Gardner (2006), students find it easier to make sense of criteria for their work if they examine other students work alongside their own. It is uniquely valuable because the interchange is in language that students themselves would naturally use, because they learn by taking roles of teachers and examiners of others (Saddler, 1998)
Eckstein and Noah (1992) argue that teachers teach to the test therefore leaving out some non-examinable but important skills set out in the curriculum. This is evident because most schools in the developing world concentrate on exams which is summative assessment and because of the backwash of this type of assessment, it impedes rather than promote social justice by locking many young people out of the education system, (Cunningham 1998). This summative assessment limits potential in enhancing teaching and learning which makes learners not to get prompt feedback to help them improve on their performance (Brooks, 2002).
PA saves the teachers time because it takes a shorter time to mark and grade assignments using it than when a teacher marks all the books. This gives the teacher ample time to prepare for other lessons. By using PA, the teacher is able to give feedback to the pupils in a littler time than when the teacher uses traditional method of marking. PA was introduced with an intention to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning. It makes them feel valued because their suggestions are put into account. According to Irons (2008) PA encourages dialogue between the teacher and learners themselves as they negotiate the best assessment criteria when making a rubric to evaluate their work. This makes students really understand what is required of them.
Phil Race et al, asserts that students learn deeply when they have a sense of ownership of the agenda and if PA is done using the students design, there tends to be a sense of ownership of the criteria used than when they apply the tutors criteria. Furthermore, PA allows students to learn from each others successes. In some instances students notice that the work they are assessing is better than their own efforts, therefore they can benefit from the work of the most able in the group. Similarly, it helps students to learn from each others weaknesses too. When they discover mistakes in their peers work, it is usually good for them as the awareness of what not to do increases and therefore refrain from making the same mistake. (Phil et al 2006)
My practicum was in a primary school in Dar es Salaam city. I was allocated standard seven to teach English. Standard 7A is rather a large class with a roll of fifty three pupils. Boys were twenty eight while girls were twenty five. All were present. This was a double English lesson of forty minutes each. The Topic was Comprehension, Sub-topic; The library; Lenders and Borrowers. My main objectives were; by the end of the lesson, pupils should be able to read, understand, formulate questions, discuss and be able to evaluate their peers work using a rubric. I made a detailed lesson plan showing the teachers and learners activities. My teaching and learning resources were standard seven text books, dictionaries, flash cards with new words written on them, pictures of a library. The lesson started at 8.00am to 9.20am.
I introduced the lesson with a vocabulary song as a brainstorming activity that was led by one of the pupils. I explained what I expected of them throughout the lesson, then used the self-selecting method to form groups of six and told them to choose a leader. We went through the guidelines that they would follow in their discussion groups. The passage had six paragraphs so I gave each group a paragraph. The learners read the passage as they listened to one another, noted down difficult or new words, and then generated three questions from their assigned paragraph.
I assisted to organise the groups and how they would present. One member quickly read their paragraph as the rest of the class listened, other members gave new words that they came across and the three questions they had formulated. As they presented their findings I was writing on the blackboard the new words they had encountered, and the questions they had constructed.
Together we discussed meanings of these words as pupils tried using them in sentences and checking them out in the dictionary. I noted that discussions were being led in Kiswahili though it was an English lesson. Cummins in McKay (2008) and Ellis stated that the first language (L1) is important because sometimes learners first think in it to make meaning in English. However, the discussion was very lively and everybody tried to participate. It also concurred with Goetz (2002) that different views from learners influence the direction of a lesson creating new learning experiences for both the teacher and the learner.
As a class, we discussed the questions on the blackboard then I asked them to write the work in their exercise books, collect and put them on the teachers table. Together we discussed and made a marking criterion on the blackboard. I asked the class prefect to distribute the books to the learners making sure that one did not mark his or her own book. They carefully used the rubric to mark their peers work, then returned them to the owners to check and in case of any complains i moderated and explained to their satisfaction. Finally I gave each a foolscap and asked them to write down what they felt about the new method of assessment. This exercise was mainly to analyze the learners reflections and to evaluate myself as a teacher.
My first challenge was the English teacher assigned to me was not co-operative. He was not willing to hand over a candidate class to me. I made him understand that my input would be beneficial to his professional development and the students grades.
During group work, some learners took it for story telling time. I had a rough time controlling the noise and putting them back to focus. The chosen group leaders helped me have order in the groups and ensured participation of all members.
Code switching was common as I related with the learners and as they interacted in their discussion groups. It was a challenge because they did not have the confidence to express themselves. Very few picked courage and participated in English. The rest when picked upon would request to speak in Kiswahili. I encouraged them to have confidence and to continue speaking in English because practice makes perfect.
The learning environment was not very conducive. The floor was dusty and had pot holes. This was likely to cause health problems and injury. Due to the large class, desks were not enough. Learners shared four or five per desk which was quite uncomfortable. I advised the administration to discuss the matter with stakeholders so that the class would be repaired and desks added.
This class did not have any teaching learning materials on the walls. They only had text books which were inadequate in a ratio of 1:5. Sharing was a problem because not all could access them. I advised the teacher that teaching and learning aids helped students to construct knowledge for themselves and develop effective learning strategies, thus laying a solid foundation for life-long learning. I also urged him to improvise teaching aids by using locally available materials for example, carton boxes to write on vocabularies and sentence structures and hang on the walls.
I realized that peer assessment can be time consuming if practiced in a large class. Grouping learners, discussions, presentations and awarding marks consumed a lot of time which affected the next lesson. Since the school had extra classrooms, I encouraged him to create an extra stream and transfer some learners from 7A and 7B to the new stream if learners were to benefit from this kind of assessment. This is because a class of fifty three was too large putting into consideration the slow learners and learners with special needs who needed special attention.
Peer assessment had good impact on the teaching learning process where the learners and I jointly got involved in the assessment process hence owning the entire peer assessment procedures integrated in the lesson. This resulted into meaningful learning where feedback was instant. However, there were some challenges which we jointly addressed with the learners. For PA to be successful, meaningful procedures have to be put in place.
Black, P. &William. (1998).Assessment and classroom learning: Assessment in education,principles, policy and practice in Irons, A. (2008). Enhancing learning through formative assessment and feedback.
Cunning,G.K. (1998).Assessment in the classroom: constructing and interpreting tests. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Irons, A. (2008).Enhancing learning through formative assessment and feedback. London: Routledge. Race, P., Brown, S. &Smith. (2006). 500 Tips on assessment (2nd edition). London: