The blog

Peer to peer grading

3rd December 2019 | Mike Williams

At Vizi, we are always trying to think of ways to try and improve student outcomes, whilst saving teachers time! When you think about it, saving teachers time allows them to do more of the things that really count, like spending time teaching students, and of course, this is one of the best ways of improving student outcomes!

One such way of ticking both of these boxes is by using peer to peer grading….

Peer to peer grading or peer assessment is a system of learning whereby students assess and give feedback on one another's work. So if students had written a history essay, fellow students would read the essay and give it a grade or issue some feedback. It is a great way to improve students understanding of a subject and improve their critical thinking and of course, it can help to save a teacher’s time!

"Mark, this could be better"


So, let’s have a look at some of the advantages of using a peer to peer grading system.

  • Better understand assessment criteria. By grading their peers’ work, a student is compelled to get to know the mark scheme and the requirements of an assessment.
  • Learn from others. By marking a really good bit of work, a student can pick up on techniques and traits from their peers and start to use them in their own work. Conversely, a student can learn from the mistakes of others.
  • Encourage deeper understanding of topic. Giving a student the responsibility of grading a peer can encourage that student to question their own knowledge and further their understanding of the topic to properly mark that work. Students are forced to look-up the unknown, rather than risk incorrectly marking a peers' assessment.
  • Gain insight into their peers approach to an assessment. Through giving and receiving feedback, students can learn how others prepare for assessments.
  • Judgement skills and critiquing ability. Students are able to learn the art of judging others and effectively giving feedback - a skill that is often overlooked in schools, but hugely important in the world of work.
  • Development of critical thinking. It can improve a students ability to evaluate and analyse work and draw proper conclusions, again, a skill that is hugely important in later life!
  • Working cooperatively. It encourages cooperative working, giving and receiving meaningful feedback from peers and learning how to deliver and receive that feedback to work best for both parties. i.e. Taking feedback on board and delivering feedback in a manner that is useful.
  • Sense of ownership and responsibility. Students can begin to understand and manage the pressures of delivering for others.
At this point, it is worth noting that peer to peer grading is unlikely the answer to grading important end of term/year assessments. Rather, a really useful learning technique for 'everyday' assessments that gives a surprisingly accurate means of grading work.

It is found that generally with a structured mark scheme, the peer to peer gradings are accurate - with a slight tendency to over mark. As students become more au fait with conducting peer to peer analysis, the quality of marking will improve and you can rely more heavily on the grades being accurate.


There are several different methods and systems that can be used for peer to peer marking:

  • Open - A student is allocated someones's work and knows who that work belongs too. This can allow for more tailored feedback if the student is familiar with their peers’ work but can lead to biased marking towards friendships. So be wary!
  • Closed - A student is allocated a someone's work and does not know who it belongs to. This removes any unwanted bias from the marking, unless they guess who's work it is of course! It allows the student to mark the work without any preconceptions of the author.
  • Group - A group of students will deliberate and work together to give feedback on someone's work. This often works well when delivering face to face informal feedback, allowing both parties to ask lots of questions and learn from one another. Using the face to face feedback method is not restricted to group scenarios and can equally be used with one to one open and closed scenarios.
  • Multiple assessments - It can be a good idea to give each student multiple peers’ work and have them mark each individually. This not only exposes the student to more papers to learn from or analyse, it also gives you a chance to compare marking ability between students and potentially even take the average mark for an assessment as a final mark.
  • Written feedback or face to face feedback - As a means of actually delivering feedback, beyond a simple grade, students can write feedback or give it face to face. Writing feedback gives the student receiving feedback a good record of their performance and helps to develop the marker’s ability to summarise work and structure feedback effectively. Face to face feedback is great for collaboration and discussion.
  • 360 feedback - It is important to remember that marking, grading, reviewing, analysing etc. a peers’ work is an important skill in itself. Allowing the a student to review their reviewer can improve the reviewer’s skills and ability to analyse work.
There is no correct approach from the above. Different methods will work best with different groups of students.


There are certain points to consider when designing and implementing a peer to peer grading environment.

  • It is important to consider the design of an assessment. Does the assessment rely heavily on subjective marking or stick to a rigid mark scheme?
    • A level of subjectivity is quite often useful, as it means a student doesn’t solely rely on a mark scheme and encourages them to actively think about what they are reviewing. That being said, having guidelines and a semblance of a mark scheme is important for the accuracy of the assessing.
    • Where there are usually yes and no answers, like in mathematics, it may be quicker and more effective to mark the work yourself and give feedback and assistance based on the results of the assessment, targeting areas for whole class improvement.
  • Understanding the expectation from the exercise is a good place to start a peer to peer grading exercise. Do you want to use it solely as a learning exercise for students, in which case you might encourage a lot of face to face or group feedback, or do you want to use it as a formal grading exercise that contributes more to a student’s critical thinking and to the actual grades or the assessed piece of work.
  • Although you may not want your students to blindly follow a mark scheme, it is important to give your students clear instruction on how they should mark the work. 'Three marks for this section of the test if a student has demonstrated X', for example.
  • It can be useful to consider who is marking who - regardless of whether you use an open or closed strategy, it is worth considering both the reviewee and the reviewers ability when pairing work. For example, for students that have English as an additional Language (EAL), you may have students that have a better understanding of the difficulties these students might face and mark more appropriately.
There are, of course, some potential downsides to consider when using peer to peer grading. It might not be suited to all subjects and age groups. For example, students might feel pressure to get it right if it is counting towards grades or if the marks do not count towards anything, it can encourage slapdash marking. Some assessments might require a level of knowledge and experience that your students won't have.

In all, a well thought out peer grading environment can provide students with lots of oppurtunity to learn from their peers and at the same time, save you time grading lots of papers!

Want to hear more about how Vizi is using peer grading, please start a chat using the chat window in the bottom right of the screen.


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