Secondary English

Assessment Loops: Improving Peer Assessment.


I don’t know about you, but I am often frustrated by Peer Assessment. It something that we have to be seen to be doing, but can often become a box-ticking exercise, which students dread. Time and again, students write inane comments, ‘Good detail’ and then feel hard-done by, as all they really want is for you, the teacher, to read and mark their work. The benefit of this for students can be negligible and precious time in class is simply wasted.

However, I recently attended some staff CPD about Peer Assessment and was introduced to the idea of Assessment Roundabouts. I promptly tried this method out on a couple of my classes, in a couple of different ways, and I was amazed by the results. The most effective formula, I found, was the following:

  1. The students complete a piece of work.
  2. Put students into groups of four.
  3. Give each student a piece of paper, and a copy of the mark-scheme.
  4. Studentsthenwritedownwhatisgoodabouttheirwork,whatmarkitdeservesandwhy,e.g, I have managed to use quotations to support my points. I deserve a band 3 because I explain my points.
  5. Students pass their work onto the left, but keep the sheet of paper. They read the new work and write a comment on their sheet, which compares it to their own, e.g. This piece of work is better than mine because it comments on the images created by the writer.
  6. Repeat step 5 two more times.
  7. Students then read their own piece of work again and edit their original comments.
  8. Following this, the group discusses which is the best piece of work, and shares why this is the case with the rest of the class.
  9. Students are consequently set the task of constructing a list of ingredients for the ‘Perfect Piece of Work’.


I have tried this activity in a different way, with students just writing a ‘Star and a Wish’ and then passing on. However, I found that, although this was helpful, it was not as effectual. What I found so successful about the above method was that by asking students to compare their work with each other, they were forced to engage with what they had done in a much more meaningful way, and it enabled them to understand what went into making that particular type of work outstanding.


This is why I prefer the title ‘Assessment Loops’, as it is not just another ‘pass it on’ activity (as much as I love those) but the crux of it is in students beginning and ending with their own piece of work. Their comparison comes full circle and as a result, they understand their own work better. My students all found this process worthwhile and none of them were haranguing me to mark it myself afterwards!

So, no more box-ticking, frustration-inducing Peer Assessment. Try this out: the benefits are tremendous.



Naomi Hursthouse has been teaching in West Sussex for ten years. She has worked as an Advanced Skills Teacher, a Gifted and Talented Coordinator, AQA examiner and is currently the Head of English at Ormiston Six Villages Academy.



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