Assessment Design: Perspectives and Examples Informed by Universal Design for Learning

Section 2.6: Assessment Methods and Examples – Collaborative and Peer

Collaborative Assessment

Collaborative assessment is an approach to assessment where there are features of reciprocal feedback and reflection between instructor and student and among the students themselves. That reciprocity can take the form of verbal feedback, co-constructing rubrics, retaking tests/exams, practice evaluations, or group grading. Note that collaborative assessment does not necessarily imply a grading component (although it can). In fact, many instructors engage in feedback with and between students, but the difference with collaborative assessment is that it is an aspect of the design of the course so that reciprocal feedback and its structure is proactive and planned with a clear rationale. Collaborative assessment can be planned:

  • At the beginning of the course to decide on how to evaluate learning
  • In planning self, peer, and instructor feedback schedules
  • In deciding on deadline flexibility and how grades will be assigned
  • When integrating feedback in subsequent iterations of the evaluation process

Here is a UDL-informed example

Shauna has created a new lab for paramedics to learn safety protocols around cardiac arrest.

  • She introduces the lab with explicit mapping of the learning outcomes. She explains to students that the goal of the lab is to reach a level of proficiency where students feel comfortable, confident, and flexible in their knowledge.
  • She solicits feedback from the students on those learning outcomes and whether they are familiar with any similar labs.
  • Students elaborate on the learning outcomes, and with Shauna’s assistance, revise the wording to take account of student knowledge and experience.
  • Together, Shauna and her students review the lab description and assign responsibilities for providing feedback. Some aspects of the lab can be reviewed via peer assessment; other areas of feedback will be delivered by the instructor.
  • Students work in groups to describe what feedback should look like. With Shauna’s guidance, they construct a rubric for reviewing the lab activity. This rubric runs in parallel with the checklist of tasks that comprise the lab.
  • Students determine the levels of criticality for the lab procedure. That is, some aspects of the protocol have little to no room for error and need to be identified as such; other areas may be more flexible in how the students approach the task.
  • They agree on five scaffolds or stages in reaching the final assessment. They can try each stage as many times as they would like and pace themselves as they would like.

Peer Assessment

Peer assessment involves the review of a learner’s work by a fellow learner or group of learners. Peer assessment can be difficult to implement and even counter-intuitive because it restructures some of the power balance in a classroom and recognizes the authority of knowledge and expertise exists among students in addition to the instructor (Fenwick and Parsons, p. 254).  However, reviewing the work of others demands critical thinking, observation skills, application of effective communication and is itself a significant structured learning activity. Using peer assessment adds a critical piece to a larger evaluation strategy and helps learners become less detached from the design of the course and more involved in its pedagogy (Wride, M., 2017).

In addition, it offers a number of advantages that fit into a UDL framework:

  • Recognizing that learner variability contributes to a wider perspective on learning and draws on a richer collective background.
  • Learners are given more responsibility to monitor and reflect their own learning as well as that of their peers.

Here is a UDL-informed example

Ron is teaching Research Method this term, and students are assessed at different stages along the writing process, from the proposal stage to the final report. One of the assignments in this course is for students to review each other’s work and provide feedback.

  • Ron explains to the students that the goal of the peer review process is to help them to become better at academic writing. Instead of being told that their writings may not meet the given style (e.g. APA, MLA), students must learn the standards by assessing the accuracy of their peer’s work.
  • Giving good feedback is a skill itself, so Ron provides an example that demonstrates how to provide feedback to ensure a useful result.
  • Ron reassures students that they do not need to assign a grade to their peer’s work but simply to provide feedback, primarily in the form of suggestions for improvement. The emphasis is on feedback and formative assessment rather than a grade.
  • Ron provides a rubric that students can use to provide feedback and invites students to revise the rubric based on their understanding of the assignment.
  • Ron also offers choice on how to conduct their review. Students can provide written feedback, or record a video in which they go through their peer’s work, or schedule a synchronous meeting to provide feedback directly. Therefore, peers can agree with each other what format works best.


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A Comprehensive Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning by Dr. Seanna Takacs; Junsong Zhang; Helen Lee; Lynn Truong; and David Smulders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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