What Happens When Peer Learner Conversations are Introduced as a Method of Peer Assessment in the Classroom?
In recent years, the remit of classroom teachers has changed. The job of a teacher is no longer to simply build on the knowledge of learners but to help them develop the skills and attributes they need to flourish in life. Two of the main capacities expressed by Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) are to develop learners into ‘confident individuals’ and ‘effective contributors’. Further, in accordance with the Standard for Registration (SfR) 3.1.5, teachers are required to ‘establish a culture where learners meaningfully participate in decisions related to their learning’. This is a long standing theory that stems back to Vygotskys’ philosophy of socio constructivism. Vygotsky stated that knowledge is something that is co-constructed and that individuals learn best from one another (Vygotsky, 1978). Communication and interpersonal skills are key in achieving this.
This being the case, I decided to introduce peer learner conversations in the classroom. As art can be seen as subjective, I have often struggled to encourage meaningful, accurate reflection from learners. These conversations were introduced with the aim to give learners more responsibility for their own learning and to promote a deeper thought process whilst helping pupils to learn from each other. The conversations were used as a form of peer-assessment. Peer assessment is widely seen to be a valuable teaching tool as ‘students often communicate more effectively with one another than the teacher does’ (Leahy et al. 2005). Leahy et al go on to state that learners are more engaged when conversing with one another and that they both benefit from the process.
Despite the abundance of research on the positive impact of peer assessment, the majority of classrooms are still largely teacher led. To assure effective peer conversations, the correct scaffolding must be put in place. Learners require a clear structure along with well-defined intentions and criteria in order for peer assessment to be meaningful and benefit both parties.
The aim of this enquiry is to begin to explore the impact peer learner conversations can have in the classroom. This will be split into three main parts; value, confidence and communication.
- Value – For peer-assessment to have an impact on learning, the feedback given must have value. This enquiry aims to find out if learners are assessing each other fairly and accurately.
- Confidence – Many young people struggle to articulate themselves, especially in subject specific vocabulary. By partaking in learning conversations I hope that pupils build confidence in talking about their own work and the work of others.
- Communication – This enquiry aims to evaluate the impact peer-assessment can have on simple interpersonal skills such as taking turns at listening and accepting constructive feedback.