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Effective peer and self-assessment

Peer and self-assessment are powerful forms of feedback when harnessed correctly. However, you cannot expect pupils to master the art of effective peer and self-assessment without first understanding how to meaningfully respond to feedback themselves, and second, having a clear mental model of what effective peer and self-assessment looks like.

When done well, peer and self-assessment can:

  • Give pupils the opportunity to think carefully about their own learning and that of their peers
  • Reduce marking load for the teacher
  • Allow pupils to develop their mental model of what success looks like in a task and support them to develop transferrable knowledge
  • Support self-regulation and independence

When done poorly however, it can lead to:

  • Poor progress for pupils
  • A waste of lesson time
  • Pupils focusing on the wrong learning points
  • Pupils developing a poor mental model of effective feedback
  • The development of misconceptions

Peer and self assessment

Watch the following video of Stuart Kime from Evidence Based Education as he explains what is needed to establish effective peer and self-assessment in your classroom.

Record any notes in your notebook.

Video transcript

During the course of a lesson, or sequence of lessons, you build up a picture of your students’ learning by using assessments to take multiple inadequate glances through a variety of lenses – moment by moment quizzes, topic questions and so on – and by doing so you can increase your confidence in knowing how your students are doing. In a similar way both self-assessment and peer assessment can help your students increase their confidence in how they’re doing. And just as you are learning to develop the skills of teacher assessment, so your students need to learn the skills of self and peer assessment. Self and peer assessments are not just valuable tools for producing information. The very act of thinking hard about your own work or someone else’s work can be powerful learning events in and of themselves for the person doing the thinking. Done poorly, however, these approaches take up too much classroom time and can lead to students focusing on the wrong drivers of success. Effective self-assessment is a process in which a student thinks independently about their own work and how it could be improved. For it to be useful, the process should be modelled and scaffolded deliberately for your students as it’s often unfamiliar and challenging, and the steps involved need to be transparent and understood by everyone in your classroom.

There are four things that help most teachers use self-assessment effectively:

  1. Firstly, provide students with clear and understandable examples of what you want them to learn – modelling the destination in this way can be incredibly powerful in knowing where they’re going on the journey.
  2. Secondly, share specific and understandable success criteria that help your students know how they’re doing along the way.
  3. Plan opportunities for your students to use those success criteria independently to identify both their own successes and the things that they need to improve, and finally,
  4. Plan opportunities for your students to work independently to make the identified improvements and I can’t stress that last point enough. The most important thing about feedback is what a student does with it.

Effective peer assessment involves students thinking about someone else’s piece of work and how it could be improved. Peer assessment can be a powerful learning tool and it’s not actually about students marking each other’s work, as sometimes it’s thought, and, structured well, it can have a positive impact both for the student receiving the peer assessment feedback as well as for the student giving it. Often those students who engage in effective peer assessment tasks become much more aware of how to improve their own work by virtue of trying to improve others’.

Peer assessment engages your students in taking on the role of what Dylan William has called ‘learning resources for their peers’ and just as with self-assessment you’ll need to provide students with exemplars and success criteria as well as planned opportunities to identify successes and areas for improvement and, crucially, planned opportunities to act on this information.

Both peer assessment and self-assessment require students to self-regulate effectively. They need to be able to think about the process of their own learning explicitly and to manage it. But to do so requires motivation, a willingness on the part of the student. Your students need to be motivated to engage in something that is inherently difficult, so helping them understand not just what they’re learning, but also how they learn effectively, can be instrumental in generating the motivation to put in the effort needed to learn.

Stuart highlights the importance of modelling and structuring peer and self-assessment. It is important to provide pupils with exemplars and clear success criteria, so that they can develop their mental model of effective feedback.

Hear from fellow teachers as they explain how they have established peer and self-assessment in their classroom. Select the video that you feel suits your development needs.

Self and peer assessment - Early Years

Video script

As an Early Years teacher I find assessment checkpoints (sometimes known as mini plenaries) throughout a period of learning to be an effective way to support self-assessment. After a whole class input to a text or piece of writing, the children in Reception move on to tasks which are to be completed independently or supported by the teacher or teaching assistant. With half the class working independently, it gives a good opportunity to use assessment checkpoints to refocus the children, to assess their understanding of the task, and to remind the children of expectations. Within this time, I ask for the attention of all children and explain (so everyone can hear) what I like about individual children’s work and asking them to look at their own work and see if they have similar or think about how they could put this ‘positive’ into their own work. The modelling of what I’m thinking, and what I think is successful, helps them to self-assess whether they recognise it in their own work.

Within continuous provision, self-assessment is set up in areas such as the construction or glue area. Adults enhance the learning in these areas by supplying a task that ‘could be’ completed if the children need this structured support, rather than child-initiated work. An example of this task is a ‘child planning sheet’. These are placed in various areas across the continuous provision and they encourage children to draw what they want to make, they then go away and create their models, and move on to complete the sheet with a ‘How to make it better next time?’ Although this takes time for young children to be able to self-assess their own work, a child who is assessed as ‘Exceeding’ , is expected to be able to ‘carry out activities and state what they might change if they were to repeat them’.

To support the development of peer-assessment, each week we have a whole class writing lesson which includes some peer-marking. I place a large copy of a child’s work onto the whiteboard/visualiser and question children ‘What do you like about this work?’ When the children become familiar with what I’m looking for and what is in ‘good’ writing they are able to hold dialogues about their peers work at the age of four or five. This is then marked with the children as it would be in books. For example, a child might state that they can see a capital letter and a full stop. I would then mark the work with a star (*) and the symbol ‘C’ for capital letters and a ‘.’ (full stop). Moving on to ‘something to improve’ gives the children the opportunity to support each other with areas to address such as ‘descenders not hanging under the line’, ‘ascenders not touching the top of the line’ etc This would be highlighted in yellow and then modelled by me below on how this is to be completed correctly. The same practice is applied in individual textbooks. However, children are given time to apply their changes next to the highlighted modelling.

Self and peer assessment - Primary

Video transcript

Self and peer assessment of writing is something I always plan for at the end of a unit of work. This has had a positive impact on pupil outcomes.

The process of developing the right culture and modelling the process of assessing another’s work is something that I have built up slowly over the course of the year, making sure that, from the outset, the pupils understood assessment of their own, or their peers’ work, was not only to pinpoint areas to improve but also to celebrate successes. I didn’t want the pupils to think that helping someone with their work was always a case of looking for ‘mistakes’. Therefore, I always begin peer or self-assessment by asking pupils to identify strengths in a piece of work. Identifying and sharing what their peers did well encouraged pupils to look for similar things in their own work. This was especially effective for those who found it tricky to identify their own successes.

After identifying areas of success, the pupils are then asked to identify one place in their work that could be improved. One really powerful way I have found to do this effectively is to get a pupil to read aloud someone else’s work back to them, following all punctuation and reading each word as it is written. Hearing what your own work sounds like, more often than not, makes pupils realise where things may not quite flow well, sound repetitive or, because of the way it has been punctuated, just doesn’t quite make sense. I set this up initially by modelling this with the whole class. I used a piece of writing I put together myself, and had a volunteer to read the work aloud exactly as written. Everyone in the class was given the opportunity to offer comments and opinions; firstly on one thing they found really effective, and then one thing they thought could be improved. As pupils offered feedback, I offered suggestions as to how responses could be re-worded or developed to become effective. The pupils then followed this model.

After receiving feedback from their peers or an adult, the pupils then used a coloured pencil to make changes to their writing so any improvements could be clearly seen. Sometimes pupils asked to re-draft whole paragraphs as well as changing the odd piece of vocabulary or punctuation.

Video transcript

When planning self and peer assessment, I always start with the ‘why’. For it to be successful, the pupils need to see the purpose in doing it. I like to explain the benefits; such as ‘you can identify mistakes and self-correct’, ‘your peer can provide alternative viewpoints or suggestions to develop your work’, they can be a ‘friendly second eye’ catching any errors that you may have made.

In my classroom, self-assessment can range from retrieval quiz marking, to peer debate assessment, to feeding back on written work. Different practitioners use different assessment tools such as ‘Whatt Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ or ‘2 stars and a wish’ etc. My advice would be to select one approach to self-assessment initially, and be consistent with it, measuring the impact as you do.

When pupils have an opportunity to peer assess work, I always ensure that feedback is positive, developmental and non-threatening, and I stress that it should be friendly, informative and specific. My class initially gave feedback to each other that was very simplistic, such as ‘even better if: you write more’ or ‘even better if: you complete it’. To ensure feedback was useful, I provided pupils with a clear mark scheme or success criteria, and ensured that the improvement points reflected that mark scheme. To achieve this, it took a lot of modelling from me. Each time I modelled giving feedback, I made my improvement areas link back to the success criteria by giving a specific example such as ‘EBI: you used a specific range of evidence’ A specific example of self and peer assessment in action is from a GCSE class where we completed an assessment (key task). Whilst it is a teacher assessed piece of work, I get them to self-assess it first. This empowers them to be able to assess their own work and identify for themselves their own improvements, which they will have to do in examinations – they need to be able to look back over their work and determine if they have met the criteria and where they need to amend or add in additional knowledge. At the end of the assessment, I asked them to mark their answers using marking codes. They did this in green pen and identified for themselves where the improvements needed to be made. This is very useful as well because when I then mark their work, it lets me know if they have interpreted the success criteria correctly and that they understand the components of the question and the knowledge that they have applied. Instead of me having to infer why they may have got an aspect wrong, it helps me to really zoom in on their understanding – is it that they knew for themselves they had not been successful in that area (for example, “my evidence was inaccurate, it should have been….”) or whether they didn’t pick up on that being an error and marked it correctly (which means they have a misconception and that I need to re-teach them). I then give them their responses back so that they can action the areas that we have agreed need to be improved.

I used peer assessment when asking pupils to assess practice examination questions. When doing this, I made sure that I had a clear mark scheme available to them that was pupil-friendly and accessible. This enabled pupils to clearly identify where marks were awarded and how to understand the difference between the levels, so that they could look at how to progress.

When setting this up in the classroom, I saw it as an evolutionary approach that I would have to build on over time to ensure pupil understanding, avoid working memory overload, and check that the system was being applied correctly. I clearly modelled how to give the feedback and spoke aloud about my thought process at each step. This helps me to constantly reinforce my expectations. For the pupils’ first attempt, I also scaffolded their feedback using and corrected their responses where appropriate. My pupils soon started to identify ‘this is where I need to improve, this is what I need to improve, this is how I need to improve it’.

Prepare for your next mentor interaction by selecting an example of self-assessment completed by a pupil in your class.

Metacognition and self-assessment

You have been introduced to the concept of metacognition in module 2 and built on this in module 3 through the strategy of ‘thinking aloud’. Alongside supporting pupils to move new learning into the long-term memory, developing metacognitive strategies will also improve their independence and ability to self-assess and think critically about their own learning.

Imagine a group of pupils that were independent enough to effectively self-assess by evaluating their knowledge, identifying gaps in their learning, determining the effectiveness of their work and planning to make the relevant changes in the future. Metacognitive strategies support pupils to be able to do this by focusing on developing their ability to plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning. Pupils will effectively be self-assessing their progress as they move through the task, as well as after the fact.

How can you teach pupils to plan, monitor and evaluate learning?

The first step is to ensure that pupils have secure subject knowledge in the area in which they are applying the metacognitive strategy. Without knowledge, pupils will not be able to apply the strategies they are being taught. Instead, they will still be trying to understand and learn the concept, rather than reflecting effectively on how well they have learnt it and what they need to do next.

The next step is to know that development of metacognitive strategies requires explicit teaching and modelling in order to train pupils’ thinking.

The EEF report into metacognition and self-regulation highlights that you should ask pupils questions that focus their thinking on how they could plan, monitor and evaluate their learning. The teacher should also explicitly model this thinking in order to develop it in their pupils.


Encourage pupils to think about the goal of their learning and how they will approach the task.

How will I approach the problem? Which strategies will I use? How do I manage my resources?


Emphasising the need for pupils to assess the progress they are making as they go.

What is working? What isn’t working? Why am I finding this challenging?


Appraising the effectiveness of their plan.

How did I do?

The EEF have developed seven practical recommendations that support the teaching and development of metacognition in pupils. Two of these strategies have been covered in this ECF programme. Take five minutes to review the remaining five.

Effective self and peer assessment

One of the seven recommendations for teaching metacognitive strategies is to encourage pupils to plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning.

Consider the scenario below. Then, after each verbalised thought question, think about whether it would support a pupils’ ability to better plan, monitor or evaluate their own learning.


You have asked your pupils to draw or paint a self-portrait.

Knowing that modelling the task will give pupils a clear idea of what success in the task looks like, you draw your own self-portrait in front of the class.

Knowing also that an effective way to develop metacognitive strategies and self-regulation in your pupils is to verbalise your thinking, you talk aloud through your model, articulating why you have made the choices that you have.

Verbalised thought questions
  1. What resources do I need to carry out a self-portrait?
  2. Am I finding this challenging?
  3. What have I learned from the example from before?
  4. How would I do a better portrait next time?
  5. Are all of my facial features in proportion?

{Details} Answers

  1. Plan 2. Monitor 3. Plan 4. Evaluate 5. Monitor {/Details}