Peer assessment in university teaching: an exploration of useful designs Learning to communicate is an integral part of higher education. Learning to write at an acceptable academic level cannot be isolated from learning the particular discipline content. The acquisition of academic writing is a long-term matter. So, in many curricula, teachers look for proper methods to provide more support to students in developing their writing competency. This research focuses on the contribution of peer assessment to university students' acquisition of writing skills and the finding of an optimal model of peer assessment. Peer assessment is taken to be an arrangement in which students consider the quality of their fellow students' work and in which the assessment is a formative one. The study is a multiple-case study of seven cases, or seven designs of peer assessment. Of these cases are considered, in particular: the execution of peer assessment by students and teachers, the components of peer feedback, the interaction between students during oral peer feedback, students' results and the appreciation of students and teachers of peer assessment. In all, 168 students mainly following the History program of the Faculty of Arts, and nine teachers of the History Department of Utrecht University were involved. From this student group, 131 took part in peer assessment groups and 37 in a control group (with no peer assessment). Data were gathered from questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and observations of classes, students' writing products were collected and all peer feedback. Results indicated that most students complied with the procedure, took the task to assess the work of their fellow students seriously, and used the peer feedback to revise their work. Comparison between the seven designs of peer assessment and their findings lead to conclusions about features of the design supporting the system of peer assessment. A combination of written and oral peer feedback is recommendable, because students tend to concentrate on evaluating the text in their written feedback, whereas in oral peer feedback they ask questions, explain and give suggestions
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