What Happens When Peer Learner Conversations are Introduced as a Method of Peer Assessment in the Classroom?
Curriculum for Excellence states that “success in achieving the purposes and principles of the curriculum is likely if pupils are helped to become actively involved in their own learning.” (Scottish Government, 2011). This principle is currently being piloted in my own department of English at Caldervale High School, where as part of the overall departmental improvement plan, we have been conducting formal learner conversations with pupils to later use in a pupil profile. Through this, pupils are able to take an active role in their own development and are active participants in agreeing upon their strengths and development needs. However, teacher to pupil learner conversations are a lengthy process which take place at two or three key points in the school year, whereas Building the Curriculum 5 (2011) suggests that students should have “regular time to talk about their work and to identify and reflect on the evidence of their progress and next steps”. As a classroom teacher, I do of course conduct regular, ongoing informal discussions with my students, however I wanted to find ways that they could discuss their work on a more regular basis than was already offered.
However, through my reading of recent guidelines published through the Moderation Hub, the potential for students to talk with other students about their learning was highlighted – not just more knowledgeable adults (Education Scotland, 2018). This type of learner conversation sits comfortably under the umbrella of peer assessment, the benefits of which have long been discussed in academic literature, with experts such as Dylan Williams describing the process as “activating students as learners of their own learning … or what we sometimes class as activating students as teaching resources for one another.” (Education Scotland, 2018). It is therefore clear that it is a process which can not only develop useful metacognitive skills, but which can encourage deeper learner outcomes. As such, as my professional enquiry was centred around the possibility of using peer learner conversations as a method of peer assessment, the possibilities for children to have more “regular” conversations about their learning in the interim between teacher-led conversations became apparent. I felt that this could be pertinent to the work being done in my department overall, however, it was important to note that in asking children to take part in this kind of activity, we were asking them to use advanced listening and talking skills which would require scaffolding.
The literature is clear on the potential benefits of using learner conversations, however it was important for me to discover if pupil-pupil learner conversations were a useful task for children. Therefore, the aims of this enquiry were to determine:
- Whether pupils are able to use this model of peer assessment effectively.
- If pupils find this model useful in assessing their own learning.