What are Peer Review Tools?

Peer review is “a reciprocal process whereby students produce feedback reviews on the work of peers and receive feedback reviews from peers on their own work” (Nicol, Thomson, & Breslin, 2014). Peer review may also be referred to as peer feedback or peer assessment. Peer review can take the form of formative assessment (intended to provide peers with support and input on progress with little to no effect on marks or final grades) or summative assessment (intended to evaluate peers’ work through a consideration of value, worth, quality or success of products/outcomes, contributing to a grade or mark).

What is the purpose of Peer Review Tools?

The overall purpose of peer review is for students to take on a variety of roles for learning: author, reader, critic, and the criticized (Purchase & Hamer, 2017). A substantial body of literature demonstrates the diverse learning benefits of peer review (E.g. Gielen et al, 2011; Mulder et al, 2014; Van Den Berg et al. 2006), including:

  • Advancement of critical thinking and higher-order cognitive skills
  • Problem-solving through analysis and constructive suggestion
  • Meaningful interaction with peers for collaborative and participatory learning

Overall, peer review can effectively accomplish many of Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education including: emphasizing contact between students and faculty, the development of reciprocity and cooperation among students, encouraging active learning, and giving prompt feedback.

How to use Peer Review Tools

Peer feedback tools are designed to semi-automate the peer review process for instructors and students. For example, they serve to match classmates together so that the desired number of reviewers can be assigned to each student submission. Purchase and Hamer (2017) describe five core features of common peer review tools, giving an overall sense as to how peer review tools can be used:

  • Submission Methods: tools allow for one or more types of files to be submitted or uploaded for review.
  • Reviewing Criteria: tools typically allow the instructor to specify the evaluation criteria or rubric that student reviewers are to follow in providing their feedback and outline these instructions for peer reviewers as they complete their review.
  • Allocations: tools should allow instructors to specify the number of reviews each student is to complete. Tools then commonly automate the process of assigning student reviewers based on the allocations set.
  • Anonymity: tools regularly provide settings for instructors to make the reviewer’s identity anonymous or known to the recipient.
  • Mark Calculation: Where the reviewing criteria is based on numerical marks, the peer review tool typically calculates individual student grades based on parameters for evaluation (e.g. an average of marks given by all student reviewers).