Teaching students to evaluate each other

Why use peer review?

Peer assessment, or review, can improve overall learning by helping students become better readers, writers, and collaborators. A well-designed peer review program also develops students’ evaluation and assessment skills. The following are a few techniques that instructors have used to implement peer review.

Planning for peer review

  • Identify where you can incorporate peer review exercises into your course.
  • For peer review on written assignments, design guidelines that specify clearly defined tasks for the reviewer. Consider what feedback students can competently provide.
  • Determine whether peer review activities will be conducted as in-class or out-of-class assignments (or as a combination of both).
  • Plan for in-class peer reviews to last at least one class session. More time will be needed for longer papers and papers written in foreign languages.
  • Model appropriate constructive criticism and descriptive feedback through the comments you provide on papers and in class.
  • Explain the reasons for peer review, the benefits it provides, and how it supports course learning outcomes.
  • Set clear expectations: determine whether students will receive grades on their contributions to peer review sessions. If grades are given, be clear about what you are assessing, what criteria will be used for grading, and how the peer review score will be incorporated into their overall course grade.

Before the first peer review session

  • Give students a sample paper to review and comment on in class using the peer review guidelines. Ask students to share feedback and help them rephrase their comments to make them more specific and constructive, as needed.
  • Consider using the sample paper exercise to teach students how to think about, respond to, and use comments by peer reviewers to improve their writing.
  • Ask for input from students on the peer review worksheet or co-create a rubric in class.
  • Prevent overly harsh peer criticism by instructing students to provide feedback as if they were speaking to the writer or presenter directly.
  • Consider how you will assign students to groups. Do you want them to work together for the entire semester, or change for different assignments? Do you want peer reviewers to remain anonymous? How many reviews will each assignment receive?

During and after peer review sessions

  • Give clear directions and time limits for in-class peer review sessions and set defined deadlines for out-of-class peer review assignments.
  • Listen to group discussions and provide guidance and input when necessary.
  • Consider requiring students to write a plan for revision indicating the changes they intend to make on the paper and explaining why they have chosen to acknowledge or disregard specific comments and suggestions. For exams and presentations, have students write about how they would approach the task next time based on the peer comments.
  • Ask students to submit the peer feedback they received with their final papers. Make clear whether or not you will be taking this feedback into account when grading the paper, or when assigning a participation grade to the student reviewer.
  • Consider having students assess the quality of the feedback they received.
  • Discuss the process in class, addressing problems that were encountered and what was learned.

Examples of peer review activities

  • After collection, redistribute papers randomly along with a grading rubric. After students have evaluated the papers ask them to exchange with a neighbor, evaluate the new paper, and then compare notes.
  • After completing an exam, have students compare and discuss answers with a partner. You may offer them the opportunity to submit a new answer, dividing points between the two.
  • In a small class, ask students to bring one copy of their paper with their name on it and one or two copies without a name. Collect the “name” copy and redistribute the others for peer review. Provide feedback on all student papers. Collect the peer reviews and return papers to their authors.
  • For group presentations, require the class to evaluate the group’s performance using a predetermined marking scheme.
  • When working on group projects, have students evaluate each group member’s contribution to the project on a scale of 1-10. Require students to provide rationale for how and why they awarded points.

Peer review technologies


Best used for providing feedback (formative assessment), PeerMark is a peer review program that encourages students to evaluate each other’s work. Students comment on assigned papers and answer scaled and free-form questions designed by the instructor. PeerMark does not allow you to assign point values or assign and export grades.

Contact the Center for a consultation on using these peer assessment tools.


Cho, K., & MacArthur, C. (2010). Student revision with peer and expert reviewing. Learning and Instruction, 20(4), 328-338.

Kollar, I., & Fischer, F. (2010). Peer assessment as collaborative learning: A cognitive perspective. Learning and Instruction, 20(4), 344-348.

The Teaching Center. (2009). Planning and guiding in-class peer review. Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved from http://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/resources/writing-assignments-feedback/planning-and-guiding-in-class-peer-review/.

Wasson, B., & Vold, V. (2012). Leveraging new media skills in a peer feedback tool. Internet and Higher Education, 15(4), 1-10.

Xie, Y., Ke, F., & Sharma, P. (2008). The effect of peer feedback for blogging on college students’ reflective learning processes. Internet and Higher Education, 11(1), 18-25.

van Zundert, M., Sluijsmans, D., & van Merriënboer, J. (2010). Effective peer assessment processes: Research findings and future directions. Learning and Instruction, 20(4), 270-279.