Improving self- and peer assessment processes with technology

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Campus-Wide Information Systems, 2009, 26 (5), pp. 379 - 399
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Purpose - As a way of focusing curriculum development and learning outcomes universities have introduced graduate attributes, which their students should develop during their degree course. Some of these attributes are discipline-specific, others are generic to all professions. The development of these attributes can be promoted by the careful use of self- and peer assessment. The authors have previously reported using the self- and peer assessment software tool SPARK in various contexts to facilitate opportunities to practise, develop, assess and provide feedback on these attributes. This research and that of the other developers identified the need to extend the features of SPARK, to increase its flexibility and capacity to provide feedback. This paper seeks to report the results of the initial trials to investigate the potential of these new features to improve learning outcomes. Design/methodology/approach - The paper reviews some of the key literature with regard to self- and peer assessment, discusses the main aspects of the original online self- and peer assessment tool SPARK and the new version SPARKPLUS, reports and analyses the results of a series of student surveys to investigate whether the new features and applications of the tool have improved the learning outcomes in a large multi-disciplinary Engineering Design subject. Findings - It was found that using self- and peer assessment in conjunction with collaborative peer learning activities increased the benefits to students and improved engagement. Furthermore it was found that the new features available in SPARKPLUSfacilitated efficient implementation of additional self- and peer assessment processes (assessment of individual work and benchmarking exercises) and improved learning outcomes. The trials demonstrated that the tool assisted in improving students' engagement with and learning from peer learning exercises, the collection and distribution of feedback and helping them to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses. Practical implications: SPARKPLUSfacilitates the efficient management of self- and peer assessment processes even in large classes, allowing assessments to be run multiple times a semester without an excessive burden for the coordinating academic. While SPARKPLUShas enormous potential to provide significant benefits to both students and academics, it is necessary to caution that, although a powerful tool, its successful use requires thoughtful and reflective application combined with good assessment design. Originality/value - It was found that the new features available in SPARKPLUSefficiently facilitated the development of new self- and peer assessment processes (assessment of individual work and benchmarking exercises) and improved learning outcomes. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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