If you are thinking of getting your students involved in marking each others work, then here’s how to get everyone starting off on the right foot.

Peer marking involves students assessing the work or contribution of other students, often as part of a group work task, reflecting on their own efforts and that of their peers. Peer marking engages students in the learning process, helps develop their evaluative judgement and can make group work fairer.

Types of peer marking

Two main types of peer marking are commonly used:

  1. Marking the work produced by peers, such as document or presentation performance.
  2. Rating the contribution of team members in group work.

Depending on the purpose of the activity and the tools used the feedback provided by peers may include numeric grades and comments.

Note the MQ Assessment policy (Procedure) places weighting limits on group work/marks (See procedure, clauses 22-25).

Assessment procedure [25]: Seventy percent of the total available mark for a unit must be attributable to individual student performance. That means a group task/s weighted 30 percent or less can be assessed as a group and assigned a group mark only. However, if a group task is weighted more than 30 percent, or there are multiple group tasks that sum to more than 30 percent, sufficient marks must be attributable to the individual student to ensure that 70 percent of the total available mark for a unit remains attributable to individual student performance.

Scaffolding and guiding students

Start by outlining to students the value of peer marking in developing professional judgement and make it clear how the tasks being assessed align to the unit learning outcomes.

Students also need guidance on the practice of peer marking, including:

  • Etiquette for peer marking: Ask students to provide suggestions for improvement rather than just pointing out flaws. They should focus on the work rather than the person or time spent. Note: The quality of effort may be relevant when rating team member contributions.
  • Criteria to be used for evaluation: Criteria represent the characteristics of the outcomes, product or performance that is sought. This clarifies what peer markers are seeking in a response.
  • Measuring performance: Performance standards are descriptions of quality as it applies to each criteria at each grade level. This is how peer markers can recognise how well it was done.

To help peer markers understand how the above applies to the specific assessment task you can:

  • Hold an in-class or online discussion about what they should be looking for and how they should frame their peer feedback comments.
  • Provide examples of work that represent performance at varying levels (e.g. fail, pass, distinction).
  • Conduct a mock marking activity with students. An example is below that can adapted as needed.

Try setting up a two phase mock marking activity

This activity will help students understand the criteria and standards being used to evaluate the task and to reinforce their significance.

Phase 1:

  1. Provide the class with an un-marked example of work.
  2. Without reference to criteria or standards, have each student assign a mark. Have students indicate the mark (you could use an e-polling tool) and ask students for their justification.
  3. You will observe a wide distribution of assigned marks. Hold a discussion with students on possible criteria and standards.
  4. Optional: use the discussion outcomes to jointly formulate the criteria and standards – with teacher moderation.

Phase 2:

  1. Provide students with the criteria and standards. Discuss in class the meaning of the criteria and standards in terms of the specific task being marked. Have students repeat the marking exercise and indicate their marks and justifications again.
  2. Observe a narrower distribution of assigned marks. Hold another discussion regarding the differences between the two rounds and the role of criteria and standards in directing their peer marking and feedback commentary.

Peer marking tools at Macquarie

The following digital tools, available at Macquarie, can facilitate peer marking:

ToolDifficultyPurpose and features of the tool
Various Survey tools
easy ratingTools such as iLearn Questionnaire Module, Qualtrics, Google forms or MS forms can be used to create custom feedback forms. These require manual setup and listing of groups/peers in a question item. Peer ratings don’t flow to iLearn Gradebook.
iLearn Forum or Blog *easy ratingiLearn Blog and Forums allows for peer feedback on submissions, or simple rating on forum posts (if enabled). Peer ratings don’t flow to iLearn Gradebook.
To set up a peer review process using groups and forums, e.g., for small groups of students (3 or 4 each) to exchange papers and peer review comments see these instructions.
View the quick guides for for iLearn forum and Blog.
iLearn Media Activity *
easy ratingThe iLearn Media Collection Activity tool allows for peer feedback and simple rating of media submissions such as videos. Students are able to view other student/groups galleries and like/comment on them if those features are enabled.
Peer results don’t flow to iLearn Gradebook. View the quick guide for a Media Collection Activity.
iLearn Database *medium ratingThe iLearn Database activity allows students to contribute to a database of items that peers can review and then comment on, or rate submissions.
Requires manual setup of the database structure. Peer results don’t flow to Gradebook.
See the quick guide for creating a database activity.
Turnitin Peer Markmedium ratingPeers can evaluate the work produced by others via teacher provided criteria.
Requires manual transfer to iLearn Gradebook.
This 12 minute video (La Trobe) shows how it can be used.
These instructions show how to set up a Turnitin Peer Mark assignment.
See also these Turnitin quick guides.
iLearn Workshophard ratingiLearn Workshops is a collaborative activity which allows for self and peer evaluation of the work produced by others via teacher provided criteria. Projects within Workshop can be peer graded, teacher graded or a combination of both. Use requires following steps and some caveats (e.g., it is unable to handle a mid-process change to the groups).
Peer results do flow to iLearn Gradebook.
See the quick guide for creating a peer-review activity using Workshops.
Team Eval (within iLearn)hard ratingThe Team Evaluation tool asks each team member to assess their own and each other’s contribution to the group activity and then scales the group grade up or down for each member of the group to reflect their individual level of contribution. The teacher sets up the questionnaire to reflect the criteria. Results do flow to iLearn Gradebook.
See these Quick guides to set up Team Evaluation.

* Note: When using these iLearn tools, student contributions and peer comments are visible to all students in a unit unless “groups and grouping” settings are used. Refer to the iLearn Groups and Grouping Quick guide.

Explore this topic further

Over to you

How are you managing peer marking? What tools are you using to manage it? What works/doesn’t work? Let us know by leaving a comment below or email professional.learning@mq.edu.au

Acknowledgments: PLaCE Team, Learning & Teaching SWAT Community.

Banner image: New Africa on Shutterstock

Posted by Mathew Hillier

Mathew has been engaged by Macquarie University as an e-Assessment Academic in residence and is available to answer questions by MQ staff. Mathew specialises in Digital Assessment (e-Assessment) in Higher Education. Has held positions as an advisor and academic developer at University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, Monash University and University of Adelaide. He has also held academic teaching roles in areas such as business information systems, multimedia arts and engineering project management. Mathew recently led a half million dollar Federal government funded grant on e-Exams across ten university partners and is co-chair of the international 'Transforming Assessment' webinar series as the e-Assessment special interest group under the Australasian society for computers in learning in tertiary education. He is an honorary academic University of Queensland, Monash University and an adjunct academic at University of Tasmania.

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