A Peer-grading Experiment

I’ve written about the use of peer grading at university before (here and here). I want to think out loud about an experiment that just occurred to me. Imagine a one semester course, with 10 weeks of instruction (and weekly assignments) and six weeks of independent research, culminating in a final term paper.

  • 50% of the grade comes from the term paper.
  • 25% of the grade comes from peer evaluation.*
  • 15% of the grade comes from how well a student’s grading matches the others.
  • 10% of the grade  comes from how well a student’s grading matches the teacher’s.

Here’s how it would work. Every week the students are required to write a single paragraph about that week’s reading and submit it before coming to class. After class, they are given 5 paragraphs from their fellow students to grade, giving them an A, B, C, D or F. The lowest grade is dropped and the rest are averaged and rounded up.  This happens 10 times. The lowest grade is again dropped and the rest are averaged to give 25% of the student’s final grade.

Every week, the graders also get a grade. It is calculated by comparing the grade assigned to the writer (by the process I just described) to the grade given by the grader. An exact match gives the grader an A, off by 1 grade is a B, off by two is a C, etc. These grades are also averaged after the lowest has been discarded and counts for 15% of the overall grade.

On a randomly selected week the teacher grades the entire class set of submitted paragraphs. This grade overrules the grades given by the students. Also, the students are given a grade, as described above, according to how well they matched the teacher’s grade, which counts for 10% of the final grade.

I’ll let this stand without explanation for now, except to say that this doesn’t just feel efficient to me, it feels like good pedagogy. It would attune students to what it means to write for their peers.


*Update: This is a darling I will probably have to kill. The current legal framework around grading, at least in Denmark, makes it unworkable. But it may also be unnecessary. It may be enough that the students are graded on the grades they give.

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