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Peer Evaluation and Peer Review

A page within CATL Teaching Improvement Guide

Peer Evaluation 

Definition: Peer evaluation is an effective collaborative learning strategy that asks students to reflect on contributions made by colleagues in group work. Related to self-assessment, peer evaluation encourages students to critically examine the work of peers, and reflect on the meaning of quality work in general, especially when consulting a detailed rubric or checklist as a guide. 

Purpose: Students themselves provide feedback to one another, while the instructor focuses on more targeted guidance toward a learning outcome. The key for successful peer feedback is a constructive, honest environment in which students feel safe to share honest, yet helpful criticism. Through peer evaluation, students ultimately learn to better self-assess themselves, a skill which pay dividends throughout their academic and professional career. As additional benefits of peer evaluation, students learn to: 

  • apply course concepts and skills to solving problems
  • collaborate with others towards a common goal
  • examine diverse perspectives and ideas
  • assume greater responsibility in the learning process 
  • apply (and possibly create) objective criteria to judge the quality of a task or performance 

Peer evaluations also resolve the "free rider" problem with group work, that is, the tendency of students to rely on team members to take the initiative in completing group assignments or tasks. By adding an element of accountability and critical review, students will more likely exert effort to ensure a positive review from their peers (and create a good impression). 

Resources for Peer Evaluation 

There is no one way to implement peer evaluations. Though students can utilize many software and survey tools, the most common at UWL include the following: 

  • Qualtrics (very powerful survey tool) 
  • Google Forms (capable, more novice-friendly survey tool) 
  • Microsoft Office Forms (quick survey tool)
  • Canvas Survey tool (use for online or blended courses that use our learning management system) 
  • other survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey 
  • CATME is a specialized tool designed specifically for peer evaluation. This free web-based application (create account with UWL email) accomplishes both creating and evaluating groups. The software can randomly assign students to teams, based on criteria identified by an initial survey. Criteria include such items as availability on weekends, leadership style, writing skill, familiarity with PowerPoint, and major. After creating the groups, CATME then pairs students to anonymously rate one another, based on set criteria. Instructors cannot edit or add criteria, though they can select categories to include on the team-maker and evaluation surveys. 

RESOURCE: A helpful peer evaluation rubric can be found here to start your process. 

Peer Review 

Peer review is different than peer evaluation because it is focused on a deliverable – this may be a project, a writing assignment, or any other “product” that is prepared by a student to reflect their learning.  

DefinitionPeer review is the act of having another person read what you have written and respond in terms of its effectiveness. The reader works to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the product and suggests strategies for revising it.  

Purpose: The goal of peer review is not only to strengthen the work, but to help students identify areas if self-improvement for the future, encourage authentic collaboration, and get a better understanding of whether they are meeting the objectives of an assignment. Peer review in the classroom, much like in the scholarly process, aims to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a student’s work and lead to more effective outcomes.  

In receiving the evaluation, students will learn: 

  • to recognize how to learn from constructive criticism 
  • to make revision choices based on responses from peers 
  • to identify areas for self-improvement and growth.  

In performing the evaluation, students will learn: 

  • to read critically 
  • tsummarize key elements of a work 
  • tidentify specific areas for improvement with productive suggestions and advice 
  • tgive clear feedback (positive and negative).  

The most important aspect of peer review is providing very CLEAR guidelines and/or rubrics to students so that they remain focused on the “big picture” of the assignment objectives and give helpful feedback to their peers. The process can be done in the classroom or online, depending on your preferences, the particular assignment, and your goals for the review process. 

Motivatyour students in the following ways: 

  • by discussing the importance of peer review in a professional setting 
  • by allotting points to the peer review process (and reflection on how students implement peer feedback) 
  • by discussing how to give productive feedback 

Examples of Peer Review

There are a variety of tools available for implementing peer review. Remember that modeling the process for students is critical to productive peer review sessions and outcomes. 

In the classroom: 

  • Provide an example assignment. Use a previous assignment and lead a whole-class discussion to provide comments and feedback using a rubric or checklistYou can then elaborate on points students bring up and offer additional insights or expectations. 
  • The fish-bowl conversation. Ask students to swap assignments in class. Provide a rubric and ask them to review each other’s work positively, productively, and critically. Ask two volunteers to sit together and discuss each other’s work, explaining the positive aspects of the work and what needs further improvement. If your students are not comfortable in this environment, you can ask a colleague to help you model this.  


  • Use discussions in Canvas. Ask students to post their work and comment on at least 2 others in the class. The feedback can follow a rubric, or be designed to answer a set of questions about the other person’s work. The original author can then respond to the feedback and reflect on how they will implement changes.
  • Use the peer review tool in Canvas. This tool randomly assigns students to look at another person’s work. This can be used to ensure everyone receives feedback and encourages students to submit work on time. The peer review tool also helps with grading since you can also assign a rubric to the assignment.  

Useful Handouts/Rubrics: 

  • A helpful peer review handout for writing is found here. This page provides a resource for self-review that can help guide a reviewer to address the writer’s purpose and requests for areas of improvement.   
  • A more in-depth writing rubric can be found here. This asks the reviewer to clearly assess the writer’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as pinpoint very specific areas for improvement.  
  • McGill University has a list of rubrics depending on the type of assessment you are assigning for peer review.  

Tips to Implement Effectively 

  • To implement an effective peer evaluation, students must fully understand expectations in advance. Set clear goals and expectations for the process. 
  • A detailed rubric or checklist is critical to ensure evaluations are respectful, constructive and helpful. 
  • To avoid emotional complications and hurt feelings, provide examples of effective evaluations/reviews. Be sure to emphasize as required characteristics that evaluations be respectful, constructive and helpful. 
  • To encourage self-direction and responsibility, allow students to create their own rubrics or checklists (though you should still approve prior to use as an actual assessment tool). 
  • Allow students to practice peer evaluations, preferably in the form of a self-assessment or a peer review for a low-stakes activity (e.g. class or online discussion).