Case study: using peer review to adjust groupwork assignment grades

The challenge

The BM5 Medicine programme aims to develop student teamwork skills through a series of assignments in Student Selected Units (SSU). They needed a simple system that would enable the students to provide feedback on their peer’s performance, and use this score to adjust the individual assignment grade for each student.

There are 20 SSU groups, each of which typically has ten or eleven students. Students are provided with a list which gives the name and number of each SSU group, and the name and number of every student in those groups. So for example, a student might look at the list and find they are student 7 in SSU group 9 ‘Preventing falls in elderly patients’.

The solution

An iSurvey form is used to collect the data. Students enter the name of their SSU topic, the number of their group, their number in that group, their name and their student ID. The items in italics are just used to assist with data integrity, while the student ID is used to check for multiple submissions. They then give every student in their group (including themself) a single numerical rating from 0 (made no useful contribution to the group) to 10 (maximum possible contribution to the group). A free-text entry field asks them to justify any scores of 4 or less.

iSurvey form showing how students enter their peer review scores
iSurvey form showing how students enter their peer review scores

The data is exported to an Excel spreadsheet that automatically processes the data to calculate the adjustment factor. The calculation takes account of the number of valid submissions when calculating averages, enabling it to cope with groups with less than 11 members and instances of non-submission. The calculations can apply a non-submission penalty to students who do not provide peer feedback, but this is not currently used.

Excel spreasheet used to calculate scores
Excel spreasheet used to calculate scores

The average student rating only affects 25% of the assignment score, so any variation in marks across a group is usually around 5% and rarely more than 10%. A student’s own self-assessment score is not used as part of the average calculation, so they cannot game the system by giving themselves a score of 10. The system does however highlight significant differences between average and self-assessment scores.

Results page summarises student scores
Results page summarises student scores

All the tutor needs to do is import the data from iSurvey, enter the assignment scores for each group, briefly review the results for anomolies and save the results summary sheet, that lists the students by group and gives their adjusted grade, group evaluation score and self evaluation score.

Impact

This lightweight system encourages students to contribute effectively to their groups by providing a mechanism that visibly affects their grades, and does so in a way which requires minimal tutor effort.

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