A recent review, conducted by Michael Schneider and Franzis Preckel (2017) at the University of Trier, has concluded that the inclusion of peer-assessment into higher education provides the strongest correlation with student achievement. Schneider and Preckel performed a meta-analysis of 38 previous studies to rank peer-review as the number one factor out of 105 factors in terms of how strongly it correlates to student achievement. Almost 2 million students were included in the overall investigation.
Along with creating a ranked list of 105 variables that affect student achievement, they also analyzed the list to make more general conclusions. They found that there is a, “close relationship between social interaction in courses and achievement” (Schneider 565). While some A.I. supported tools often decrease the amount of interaction between students, others like Peerceptiv offer a way to include structured academic social interaction at scale. With the results of this study and many others that show the value of including peer-assessment as part of any standard curriculum, it is no wonder that so many professors are looking for ways to scale traditional peer-assessment to fit into their growing class sizes.
Another key finding of Schneider and Preckel’s study was that, “achievement is also strongly associated with… using conceptually demanding learning tasks” (Schneider 565). These types of tasks traditionally involve a large investment of time by the instructor when it comes to grading. Therefore, instructors are often hesitant to assign more demanding tasks because of the grading burden that they incur. By leveraging peer-assessment to handle the heavy lifting, the grading process becomes not only more effective as indicated by this study, but also greatly reduces the time an instructor must spend grading submissions by hand. If an instructor knows that they have an efficient way to grade 150 student projects, they are much more likely to assign them.
Schneider and Preckel also address the value of meaningful assessment in their study. “From an educational perspective, the most important function of assessment is to provide learners and teachers with feedback about past progress and their needs for future development” (Schneider 588). Peer-assessment ranked highest in this category as well. Moving from traditional assessment models to peer-assessment on formative tasks in a course significantly changes the way students interact with assignments. No longer is submission considered the end of the student role, but the beginning of a process of analysis, reflection, and improvement that leads to better achievement in school and beyond.
Universities and instructors now have an opportunity to improve their practices by including peer-assessment across the disciplines. Students learn more effectively when tasked with evaluating and commenting on the work of their classmates. They also receive more feedback more quickly so that they can reflect on their own work and improve moving forward. Thoughtfully designed peer-assessment has been proven time and again to be an essential tool in the effort to build student achievement.