Monday, 19 January 2015


Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters (A Practical Guide to Alternative Assessment, 1992) suggest the following elements of a scoring rubric: 

  • One or more traits or dimensions that serve as the basis for judging the student response
  • Definitions and examples to clarify the meaning of each trait or dimension
  • A scale of values on which to rate each dimension
  • Standards of excellence for specified performance levels accompanied by models or examples of each level

As part of a TLC group working on peer assessment, I have been trying to make pupil peer assessment more meaningful, productive and engaging.  I have often found the usual hazards of pupils assessing each other's work - being too harsh, lack of professional distance etc, and am determined to find ways to make this more successful.

As part of the TLC discussion back in late November, the use if rubrics kept percolating to the surface of our chats.  I have used rubrics before as part of my assessment of pupils' work, but have never used them as part of peer assessment.  This may seem a simple step, but I felt at this hectic time of year, it could be one key to more successful peer assessment.

So, I set aside half a lesson (less than 30 minutes) to ask the pupils to set areas of focus that they might expect the piece of work to fulfil.  In this case, the work was a story board (with captions) about a day in the life of hunter-gatherers in the prehistoric period.  We shared these categories (4 in total) and then set each group a task of coming up with 3 'level deciders' for each category.

My concern from the discussion stage was that pupils were very much concerned with the look of the piece of work - colourful, standard of drawings etc.  However, we agreed as a class that the aesthetic could not be more than 50% of the criteria, so 2 categories were about content.  This led the groups to really think about the expression of the written work, the historical content, the detail included, as well as the layout/colourfulness of the piece.

When this assessment was complete (pupils swapped with a critical friend), they were then asked to set targets based on the peer feedback.

Was it a success? I think a qualified success, yes.  There is no doubt that pupils were clearer on how they were marking the piece of work and were therefore more able to make informed and accurate decisions about the level of work.  However, there still appeared to be a preoccupation with appearance - when I looked at the work and the feedback, the ones that looked better received better feedback!  The targets set, though, appeared to be more focused than others I have attempted with other pieces of work and certainly the pupils seemed to relish the peer assessment more than at other times - perhaps this is enough of a success to try it again. Was it worth 'losing' half a lesson for? Definitely - there was enough dialogue about learning to make it worthwhile (and it reduced my marking load significantly).

I suppose what I am interested in is how we encourage pupils to focus on the (in this case historical) content when producing a more 'creative' piece of work - I could have simply asked for a piece of extended writing/diary or something of that ilk.  My next step is to try this method with a more traditional piece of extended writing to see if there is any noticeable difference in terms of success.  I suppose like all things, it is a case of trying a variety to see what works for the pupils in front of me (it never fails to amaze me how 2 lessons essentially the same can be so different with different classes [maybe a blog post for another day...]).

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