Student peer grading [a.k.a., peer assessment; peer evaluation; self-regulated learning] is a cooperative learning technique that refers to activities conducted either inside or outside of the classroom whereby students review, evaluate, and, in some cases, actually recommend grades on the quality of work of their peers. Professors often utilize peer grading as an aid to improving team performance or determining individual effort on team projects. Peer grading is usually guided by a rubric developed by the instructor. A rubric is a performance-based assessment that uses specific criteria as a basis for evaluation. An effective rubric makes grading more clear, consistent, and equitable.
Newton, Fred B. and Steven C. Ender. Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses. 2nd edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
When professors assign students to grade the work of their peers, an assumption one could make is that they are simply too lazy to do their own grading. That may be true sometimes. However, the reality is that educational research suggests peer grading actually increases learning outcomes for students.
Professors use peer grading as a way for students to practice recognizing quality research, with the hope that this will carry over to their own work. Peer grading can also enhance learning outcomes by empowering students to take ownership over the selection of criteria used to evaluate the work of peers [the rubric]. Finally, peer grading is a way to engage students in the act of seeing themselves as members of a community of researchers.
Other potential benefits include:
Dochy, Filip et al. "The Use of Self-, Peer, and Co-Assessment in Higher Education: A Review." Studies in Higher Education 24 (1999): 331-350; Sadler, Philip M. and Eddie Good. "The Impact of Self- and Peer-Grading on Student Learning." Educational Assessment 11 (2006): 1-31.
I. Best Practices
Best practices in peer assessment vary depending on the type of assignment or group project being evaluated, the rubric guiding what you are to evaluate, and the type of course you are taking. The process can be intimidating but know that everyone probably feels the same way you do when first informed you'll be grading the work of others--cautious and uncomfortable!
Given this, the following questions should be answered by your professor before beginning:
II. Things to Consider
When informed that you will be assessing the work of others, consider the following:
Getting Feedback. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Froyd, Jeffrey. Peer Assessment and Peer Evaluation. The Foundation Coalition; Newton, Fred B. and Steven C. Ender. Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses. 2nd edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010; Peer Review. Psychology Writing Center. Department of Psychology. University of Washington; Revision: Peer Editing--Serving As a Reader. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Peer Review. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University.