Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Feedback/Peer Evaluation
In 2002 Kristja J. Falvo, a mother of three, sued the Owasso Independent School District in Oklahoma claiming that peer grading embarrasses her children as well as violates the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) after learning that some teachers were allowing the students to grade each others work and call the grades out loud.
FERPA is a twenty six year old law that prohibits schools from disclosing a student’s educational record to any third party without parental consent. Falvo considered allowing the students to know the grades of others a violation of the privacy act. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the common practice of peer evaluation does not violate the federal law. However, school districts may still decide to ban peer grading from their schools. (Simpson) Each school district would probably want to evaluate the pros and cons of peer grading before coming to a final decision.
Pros Regarding Peer Evaluation
There are many arguments supporting peer grading, not only for the student, but for the teacher as well. Many studies have been done to draw the following conclusions.
Peer evaluation helps student in a variety of ways. It helps to sharpen their critical skills as well as their social responsibility. They are able to gain insight into some of the difficulties teachers come across when grading. Realizing what goes into the grading and evaluating process will help many students to understand and appreciate the grades that they have received as well as the people that gave them those grades. (Wilson) Also, the practice of peer evaluation supports involvement of both right and left brains through personal application of knowledge. Not only do student get to exercise their own knowledge on a certain topic but as they review another person’s work or performance, they are forced to look at certain material through the eyes of another person as well. (McLeod)
According to Hoyt Wilson, peer rating have been found to be valid evaluators of student performance. This is an advantage to both the student doing evaluating and the student being evaluated. After children observe peer responses, whether to an assignment or to their behavior in class, there is a natural tendency for them to determine why such reactions occur. In some cases, this could help student be able to realize their weak points and work on fixing them.
Peer evaluation promotes a feeling of team learning between teachers and students. As the teacher is able to connect with the students on this level, it gives him or her a chance to 1. encourage students to contribute openly, 2. encourage sharing materials and resources, 3. promote expressing acceptance and support during interactions, and 4. point out rejecting and non supportive behaviors that hinder peer evaluation. (Ornstein) All of these lessons in peer evaluation go beyond the classroom and can help the students in group situations for the rest of their lives. Without the atmosphere that peer evaluation creates, the students would not be as receptive to these concepts.
Cons Regarding Peer Evaluation
Although many of the arguments in support of peer evaluation make it seem like a great addition to class work, there are still many people who believe that it is negative in the classroom for both students and teachers.
|“||I think organization if better if the teacher tells me what to do. I think I do not like my neighbor to read my composition. I have many mistakes…my class friend will laugh.||”|
—Student involved in peer revising study in Hong Kong
For the student being evaluated there is, according to some, obvious disadvantages. For example, studies show that even if the peer evaluation is planned and controlled by the teacher, social relations will play a part. (Sengupta) Basically, students are more likely to give their friends a better grade than they deserve or give a worse grade to someone that they don’t like. Also, many students have complained about tough grading and unfair scores.
Some also argue that the whole peer evaluation process is a waste of time. Many students are busier figuring out easy ways to complete the evaluation sheet than evaluating the text. Also, even if an evaluator thoroughly read or evaluated a student’s performance, the person being evaluated will be selective when considering suggestions from peers. They usually rely on their own knowledge instead. (Sengupta) This defeats the purpose of the evaluation because the student is not going to notice the same things wrong with his or her assignment that a second party will notice; such as misspellings and grammar errors.
In the past, by allowing students to grade one another’s assignments, there have been cases of plagiarism and copying. (McLeod) This is more concerned with grading assignments than evaluating performance, but it is still an issue for many teachers.
Also, students are not always trustworthy of their peers. If a suggestion is given by a fellow student, it will probably be disregarded. However, if the same suggestion is given by the teacher, the student will take it into account. (Sengupta) This causes a problem for the teacher because it makes it that much harder to push the behaviors that make the peer evaluation process successful.
Bias both occurs with the student and the teacher however it is particularly crucial when it comes time to peer evaluation and grading. First off evaluation and grading are two different things. A bias is much more damaging when grading is occurring. It is hard enough for teachers who have been trained for years to avoid bias, teaching students to put aside their own bias and differences when grading is much more difficult. A student could not like a fellow classmate and grade them poorly. A teacher must closely supervise peer editing to make sure it is a fair experience.
Looking at both the pros and cons of peer evaluation and grading in the classroom makes it easy to understand why there are people both supporting and rejecting it. However, just reading through the data will not help anyone come to a certain conclusion. The age and maturity of the children, the experience of the teacher, as well as the subject matter are all to be taken into consideration. Peer evaluation is a process in which trial and error is the only way to determine if it will work in a particular school district, or even a particular classroom.
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- Gillette, Sandy. Interview. April 22, 2007.
- McLeod, Al. In Lieu of Tests [Electronic Version] NTLF's Frequently Asked Questions on College and University Teaching and Learning
- Ornstein, Allan C. and Lasley, Thomas J. Strategies for Effective Teaching Third Edition. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2000) 463-464.
- Sengupta, Sima. (1998) Peer Evaluation: 'I am not the teacher' [Electronic Version]. ELT Journal, 52, 19-28.
- Simpson, Michael D. Supreme Court Upholds Peer Grading, in NEA Today, May 2002.
- Sutcliffe, Alexis. Interview. April 20, 2007.
- Stevens, Robert J. ed. Teaching in American Schools. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill, 1999). 159.
- Wilson, Hoyt G. (1988) Parameter Estimation for Peer Grading under Incomplete Design [Electronic Version]. Educational and Psychological Measurement, vol.48, no.1, p 69-81.