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Self and Peer Evaluation in Undergraduate Education: When Promises are Worth Risking the Perils
Unformatted Document Text:  3 The previous studies produced conflicting and inconclusive evidence of the reliability and validity of peer evaluations. Over- and underrating of self and peer performance, as well as giving everyone identical (oftentimes, inflated) grades, were found in practice (especially in the first or second cycles of assessment) (Penny and Grover 1996 in Heywood 2000; Stefani 1994) 6 . A review and meta-analysis of the studies of self-evaluations (Mabe and West 1982) demonstrated that self-evaluations were subject to a great deal of error resulting from the desire of self-enhancement and that people, in general, proved incapable of analyzing themselves objectively and reliably. Other concerns that were borne out in practice of peer assessment are gender, racial, and ethnic biases infiltrating the evaluation process (Layton and Ohland 2000). On the other hand, a number of studies arrived at the contradictory findings suggesting that students’ evaluations were accurate, reliable, and consistent (Marcoulides and Simkin 1995; Boud and Holmes 1995). Given the inconsistent and contradictory evidence of perils and promises of peer evaluation, I am set to examine the question of reliability of peer evaluations using experiment as a research technique and theoretical insights from social psychology as an explanatory guide into the conditions affecting self- and peer-assessments. Self and Peer Evaluations: When Students’ Judgments are Flawed; Theory and Hypotheses Self and peer evaluation is a type of judgment that students make about their own and their peers’ academic performances. As any kind of social judgment, self and peer evaluations can be reasonably accurate or flawed because all human judgments differ in the amount of cognitive scrutiny they receive. When arriving at a conclusion or making a decision, people alternate between different modes of thinking. Sometimes they engage in careful, systematic, elaborate, processing of information to arrive at the best judgment possible (Kunda 1999, 235). Thus, on one extreme, we have the highly reasoned mode of thinking where available information is systematically reviewed, analyzed, and integrated prior to any judgment or decision (Ajzen 1996, 300). On other occasions, people engage in more cursor, superficial, “quick and dirty,” heuristic processing aimed at arriving at a satisfactory, if imperfect judgments (Kunda 1999, 235; Chaiken and Trope 1999). Consequently, on the other extreme we have the intuitive superficial mode of thinking where judgments may rely on relatively shallow situational cues, on category membership, or on simple cognitive heuristics (Ajzen 1996, 300). Although, both types of the modes of thinking can be invoked simultaneously, in a particular situation of making a judgment one mode will prevail depending on the person’s motivation and ability to scrutinize evidence and process available information. In other words, individual goals will affect the cognitive processes we engage in to arrive at a judgment (Kunda 1999, 211). One type of goals, traditionally defined as accuracy 6 For excellent surveys of the literature on student self and peer-assessment see, for instance, Boud, David and Nancy Falchikov. (1989). “Quantitative studies of student self-assessment in higher education: a critical analysis of findings,” Higher Education, vol. 18, 529; Oldfield, Keith A. and Macalpine, Mark K. (1995). “Peer and self-assessment at tertiary level – an experiential report,” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol 20(1), 125; Stefani, Lorrain J. (1992). “Comparison of collaborative self, peer and tutor assessment in a biochemistry practical,” Biochemical Education, vol. 20(3), 148.

Authors: Omelicheva, Mariya.
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3
The previous studies produced conflicting and inconclusive evidence of the
reliability and validity of peer evaluations. Over- and underrating of self and peer
performance, as well as giving everyone identical (oftentimes, inflated) grades, were
found in practice (especially in the first or second cycles of assessment) (Penny and
Grover 1996 in Heywood 2000; Stefani 1994)
6
. A review and meta-analysis of the studies
of self-evaluations (Mabe and West 1982) demonstrated that self-evaluations were
subject to a great deal of error resulting from the desire of self-enhancement and that
people, in general, proved incapable of analyzing themselves objectively and reliably.
Other concerns that were borne out in practice of peer assessment are gender, racial, and
ethnic biases infiltrating the evaluation process (Layton and Ohland 2000). On the other
hand, a number of studies arrived at the contradictory findings suggesting that students’
evaluations were accurate, reliable, and consistent (Marcoulides and Simkin 1995; Boud
and Holmes 1995). Given the inconsistent and contradictory evidence of perils and
promises of peer evaluation, I am set to examine the question of reliability of peer
evaluations using experiment as a research technique and theoretical insights from social
psychology as an explanatory guide into the conditions affecting self- and peer-
assessments.
Self and Peer Evaluations: When Students’ Judgments are Flawed; Theory
and Hypotheses
Self and peer evaluation is a type of judgment that students make about their own
and their peers’ academic performances. As any kind of social judgment, self and peer
evaluations can be reasonably accurate or flawed because all human judgments differ in
the amount of cognitive scrutiny they receive. When arriving at a conclusion or making a
decision, people alternate between different modes of thinking. Sometimes they engage
in careful, systematic, elaborate, processing of information to arrive at the best judgment
possible (Kunda 1999, 235). Thus, on one extreme, we have the highly reasoned mode of
thinking where available information is systematically reviewed, analyzed, and integrated
prior to any judgment or decision (Ajzen 1996, 300). On other occasions, people engage
in more cursor, superficial, “quick and dirty,” heuristic processing aimed at arriving at a
satisfactory, if imperfect judgments (Kunda 1999, 235; Chaiken and Trope 1999).
Consequently, on the other extreme we have the intuitive superficial mode of thinking
where judgments may rely on relatively shallow situational cues, on category
membership, or on simple cognitive heuristics (Ajzen 1996, 300).
Although, both types of the modes of thinking can be invoked simultaneously, in
a particular situation of making a judgment one mode will prevail depending on the
person’s motivation and ability to scrutinize evidence and process available information.
In other words, individual goals will affect the cognitive processes we engage in to arrive
at a judgment (Kunda 1999, 211). One type of goals, traditionally defined as accuracy
6
For excellent surveys of the literature on student self and peer-assessment see, for instance, Boud, David
and Nancy Falchikov. (1989). “Quantitative studies of student self-assessment in higher education: a
critical analysis of findings,” Higher Education, vol. 18, 529; Oldfield, Keith A. and Macalpine, Mark K.
(1995). “Peer and self-assessment at tertiary level – an experiential report,” Assessment and Evaluation in
Higher Education
, vol 20(1), 125; Stefani, Lorrain J. (1992). “Comparison of collaborative self, peer and
tutor assessment in a biochemistry practical,” Biochemical Education, vol. 20(3), 148.


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