What Happens When Peer Learner Conversations are Introduced as a Method of Peer Assessment in the Classroom?
This classroom-based practitioner enquiry focuses on the impact of peer learning conversations as a means of assessment. This will be carried out in a Primary 2/1 composite class with a particular focus on core writing targets. I believe this to be of particular importance as there are many values and benefits of peer assessment. Peer assessment can be defined as “co-operative improvement” (Pollard et al, 2014: P 367), when work is assessed amongst peers it can be discussed instantaneously and altered if need be. Peer assessment allows pupils to appreciate one another’s strengths and allows them to experience the true value that comes from another’s point of view. Children also become more autonomous when engaging with peer assessment as they will seek their peer’s advice and with an emphasis on this being a reciprocal process there is less fear of judgement (Pollard et al, 2014). Learning conversations also ensure that the feedback is instant meaning the pupils are more likely to engage with it as children are usually less likely to reflect upon past work by reading corrections in their jotters in my own experience. Vygotsky’s work on the Zone of Proximal Development emphasises the fact the pupils are more likely to develop and gain a deeper understanding when they interact with an adult or a more advanced peer (Jarvis, 2005). Pupil engagement was a key factor in measuring the success of this enquiry, the term engagement refers to the relationships between peers and also the relationship between a teacher and their pupils. It is generally used to define how involved learners are in a learning experience something which is greatly influenced by the classroom climate and ethos. It is the responsibility of a teacher to have a positive attitude and communicate clear expectations with the learners to create a successful and nurturing classroom climate which encourages and facilitates high levels of pupil engagement (McLean, 2003).
I believe learning conversations for peer assessment are extremely important due to the current emphasis on learner autonomy and increased formative assessment in primary schools. I also chose to investigate this area as a result of my own professional curiosity after witnessing similar techniques being used in other classrooms. The grounds for my enquiry originated from some preliminary observations which I carried out in a Primary 2/1 classroom and a few things instantly caught my attention: children either remained reserved when shown a peer’s work or completely over complimented it without providing any constructive criticism or targets. I also began to realise that the children didn’t necessarily reflect back and evaluate any next steps which I had suggested before starting a new piece of work which led to me often writing the same targets each week. To me this appeared to make the entire process of “Two Stars and One Wish” invalid as the teacher assessment which I was providing wasn’t being utilised to support their learning and development in a positive manner. I also believe that since these children are younger although I use visuals when correcting work or providing comments for some learners there may be an interpretation barrier there in terms of their ability to actually read the feedback I am giving them.
The aims of this classroom-based practitioner enquiry are as follows:
- Are pupils able to use learner conversations for effective peer assessment?
- Do pupils value the process of peer assessing through learner conversations?
The reasoning behind these aims was the desire to find out if pupils can engage in meaningful dialogue relevant to their learning and whether or not they actually made use of the feedback that they received.