Peer- and self-assessment

Peer- and self-assessment have become widely used in recently years in higher education, in particular as formative assessments. They involve students identifying criteria to apply to their work, and then evaluating whether they think they, or their peers, have met those criteria. This kind of assessment helps students to develop transferable skills that will be valuable in the workplace, such as making judgements and reflecting on practice.

Setting up self- and peer-assessments involves careful planning to ensure all students are very clear about the criteria they should use and how to give feedback. It is also important to feed back to the students about the results of peer-assessments.

Workload guide

Preparation time High Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Reflecting, evaluating, assessing and judging
  • Working co-operatively


Students favour objective approaches to marking, that speak to standards set by the department: it’s therefore important to have a clear mark scheme (usually in the form of a rubric) that all students mark to; and models of work at the top, middle and base of the grades can also be helpful.


Students tend to give more positive feedback overall than staff, but this is not necessarily a problem if combined with more objective rubrics, and wraparound activities that unpack the marks and feedback. Guidance can also be given, such as “list three aspects of the work you think should be shared with the group; list three things that could be improved if the task was repeated”.

Case studies

Factors influencing student peer assessment
Primrose Freestone, Department of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Leicester

Primrose used peer assessment with her 3rd year Microbial Biotechnology students. The students created a mini conference format poster and assessed each other's posters. The students engaged very well and the exercise was successful, however students consistently gave higher marks than staff even when trained in using the assessment criteria. The difference was less marked when marking anonymously and feedback showed that students found it hard to mark their peers objectively due to friendship factors.

Further reading

University of Ulster Assessment Handbook (pgs 35-36)


Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Share this page: