What Happens When Peer Learner Conversations are Introduced as a Method of Peer Assessment in the Classroom?
Research has shown that Formative Assessment can help to improve pupil’s learning as they are being assessed while the learning is taking place, rather than once the learning has concluded. British professor and educationalist, Dylan Wiliam has been an advocate of Formative Assessment and he has outlined several strategies and cited the benefits for learners.
Two of the strategies utilised in classrooms are: peer assessment and written feedback in the form of “two stars and a wish” where two positive aspects of the pupil’s work are identified and one area for improvement. This can be undertaken by the teacher or by a peer. Peer assessment allows pupils to access each other’s work to gain a different opinion from the teacher’s feedback. The “two stars and a wish” strategy places more of a focus on the positives but includes some constructive feedback which should help the learner to improve without demotivating them. Wiliam states that: “the whole purpose of feedback should be to increase the extent to which students are owners of their own learning” an idea reiterated by. Petty (commenting on the findings of Hattie and Timperley, 2007) “the feedback must be informative rather than evaluative”. The feedback given to learners should clearly indicate what they have done well and what they can do to progress. In addition to this, psychologist Vygotsky theorised that social interaction is essential for cognitive development and that learners can benefit from helping each other. Two of Vygotsky’s theories are: The More Knowledgeable Other and the Zone of Proximal Development, both of which look at ways in which pupils can learn from their peers. The purpose of this inquiry was to consider the impact on learning when pupils engage in learning conversations as part of the peer assessment process.
The aim of this practitioner enquiry was to assess the impact of introducing learning conversations as peer assessment in the classroom. Through peer assessing a series of written tasks, pupils would have the opportunity to engage in a discussion about the written feedback with their partner. The focus was to determine whether this would help them to gain a better understanding of the comments provided by their peer.