Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Peer Assessment


I tried an interesting (albeit not groundbreaking) experiment with my Level 4 learners yesterday.

After marking their recent assignments, it was clear that some of the learners were not quite on the ball with their academic writing skills.  Amongst the problems which cropped up most commonly were:

  • frequent use of unsubstantiated observations or comments
  • fragmented sentences
  • lack of referencing
  • failing to answer the questions posed
  • inaccurate content

As the group are well ahead of schedule in terms of module content, I decided to run a slightly different type of session, which had the following structure:
  • First half an hour - feedback on previous written work, with pointers and advice for improvement
  • An hour researching a given topic (which had already been covered in class previously) and writing up 300-400 words, complete with references, diagrams and citations as appropriate.  All learners being given different questions
  • Submission of the report to Turnitin (plagiarism checker) for their own review
Learners were then asked to print out their reports with a unique reference number on the top.  I then sent them for a well earned break.

In the latter half of the lesson I gave each learner another learner's paper to mark.  This involved their own research on the new topic of the report that they had been given, which they then had to mark with a letter grade, taking into account accuracy of content, structure, grammar, spelling, citations and referencing.  Learners could not identify whose work they were marking because of the unique reference number, which I hoped would avoid favouritism, or more importantly embarrassment if someone felt they had not done well.


I was really pleased with the results of this session.  When I asked the learners how they found marking someone else's work they all agreed that it was very difficult - partly because they had to be sure that the content was accurate, partly because in some cases they couldn't identify what content was original and what was quotes (because of poor referencing), and partly because they found it really hard to grade a fellow student - especially if they felt the student had done badly. 

Reviewing the papers myself has also given me a great insight into how individuals work given the constraints of what was basically a timed assessment.  I found it particularly interesting to review the marking carried out by the learners on each other.

This was definitely a worthwhile exercise, and I hope that by showing the learners what happens when their work is marked, it will improve how they present their own reports in the future.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Wider reading

Yesterday I had a bit of a rant at my level 4 students.  They have started work on a group project, but as yet I have failed to see any evidence of research and wider reading.  I didn't intend to have a go at them, but when I turned up to class, and many of them were late, I felt I needed to remind them that reading takes time and can't be done the night before an assignment needs submitting.

I demonstrated how it could be done.  Last week I spent 20 minutes retweeting information relevant to our subject on Twitter.  It wasn't difficult - I skimmed through the last few hours of posts, clicked on any interesting looking links, skim read the text and then retweeted if appropriate.  It meant that the following day I was able to review my own tweets and add links to the articles in question to our college Moodle pages for all the students to see.  These links can now be reviewed at their leisure any time up until the assignment deadline.

Having just marked a set of assignments, it's clear how beneficial wider reading is.  It teaches the students how to write academically, how to quote text or embed references, but overall, it gives them a much greater breadth of knowledge to draw on, which dramatically improves their understanding.  I think I made an impression on them, as I noticed a few had started posting messages up on a shared resource since yesterday.

Now all I need to do is resume my own wider reading for my dissertation.  It's rather a case of do as I say, and not as I do at the moment!!