Using WebPA for peer assessment with equine science PG students
Students used WebPA to grade the (anonymised) contribution of each of their fellow group members against a set of criteria determined in advance by the course team.
What was done
Students use WebPA to grade the (anonymised) contribution of each of their fellow group members against a set of criteria determined in advance by the course team. A Likert scale was used for grading. A grading algorithm built into WebPA then combines the peer grades with the tutor mark for the group to calculate a final mark for each student. The weighting of the peer grade is set by the tutor and students are notified of the percentage weighting in advance.
WebPA can be accessed via a powerlink in WebCT. It is straightforward to use by both students and staff, with straightforward interfaces for administrative functions such as creating assessments, student groups and a range of reports and report formats.
To date WebPA has been used for summative assessment with two groups of students, in the first and second year of the (part-time) MSc.
“We adopted peer assessment because we were aware that our distance learning students wanted a way of feeling more part of the assessment process, a way of getting good feedback on group assignments, particularly when they are at such a distance.”
Sharon Boyd, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Group work is essential for enhancing student interaction but can be challenging to achieve in an online distance learning programme such as the MSc/Dip/Cert in Equine Science. Against a background of increasing numbers of students we looked tools that could facilitate peer assessment in a scalable way. We chose to pilot WebPA, a free JISC-recommended tool that met our assessment development requirements.
Students were in general happy to do group-based activities but wanted recognition for individual effort. Previous methods, for example using wiki-based tasks where activity could be monitored via the wiki history, proved difficult to grade and are not easily scalable with increasing student numbers.
Using a system in which the tutor graded only the group, and feedback combined tutor and peer responses, we hoped to shorten our response time. We also wanted a tool which helped the students feel part of the assessment process and ensured recognition of individual effort.
WebPA can be used for both peer and self assessment. This case study uses only peer assessment. We are considering using the self assessment feature in the future. WebPA also allows students to provide text feedback comments as well as a grade. However we are not currently using this feature because, as this is an online distance course, there are some concerns that a student would recognise another’s “written voice”.
The vast majority of the student feedback was positive. Many students liked doing group work and appreciated how the group assignment brought the group together. They liked the fact that their mark could be partially influenced by their peers and said they would be happy to use WebPA again.
“The group assignment was quite challenging to get everybody together but it definitely opened my eyes to how other people work differently to achieve the same goals. Also it is a good lesson in compromise, you have to accept other peoples perspective because the assignment belongs to the whole group.”
A small number of students did not like group work or the use of peer assessment.
“I don’t think it’s fair that the peers grade each other as due to individual time constraints some people are not able to be able to be as involved when the others want them to be causing a negative feedback from the other peers.”
“I don’t understand why the peer assessment was a part of the assignment mark? How is our ability to peer assess be relevant to our mark for Equine Science? I see the benefit of doing it but I don’t think it should be part of an assessment.”
Slideshow presentation of this case – Groupwork with WebPA – Sharon Boyd and Jo-Anne Murray.pdf
WebPA website – http://webpaproject.lboro.ac.uk/
Effective Assessment in the Digital Age – A 2010 JISC publication which includes a short video about WebPA and could act as a useful introduction to WebPA:
JISC publication ‘Effective Practice in the Digital Age’
A direct link to the video only is: JISC Effective Assessment in a Digital Age – Loughborough and Hull
Workshop Video: Hannah Chalmers, School of Engineering: Why are you interested in Peer Feedback and Assessment? WebPA
Workshop Video: Will Hossack, School of Physics and Astronomy: Why are you interested in Peer Feedback and Assessment? WebPA
Workshop Video: Karon McBride, School of Physics and Astronomy: And what is your interest in peer feedback and assessment? WebPA