Taking the Pain out of Peer Assessment Marking?: Evaluating the impact of WebPA as part of a UCD Pilot

Scannell, Amalia G. M., Delaney, David and Jennings, David (2014) Taking the Pain out of Peer Assessment Marking?: Evaluating the impact of WebPA as part of a UCD Pilot. In: The 15th Educational Technology Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). May 29th and 30th, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.


Context: In the current economic climate there is increasing pressure on the finite resources of faculty faced with growing student numbers. Well planned peer assessment is a strategy that encourages student engagement and self-reflection. It offers a means to support learners in their understanding the learning process and expected outcomes of a given learning activity through increased frequency, scope and depth of feedback. However to disseminate good feedback, that incorporates a peer assessment element to a large numbers of students in a timely fashion, can be burdensome and may function as a barrier to including peer assessment strategies in a course or module. The application of a relatively new technology (Web Peer Assessment; webPA) may offer assistance in solving some of the issues related to staff workload and enrich student learning experiences by empowering them in their own assessment. WebPA is an automated online tool developed by Loughborough University to facilitate peer moderated marking of group work. WebPA may be applied to any type of group assignment in any discipline and has been available as open source since 2007. University College Dublin (UCD) is currently undertaking a series of pilot schemes in a range of disciplines to determine whether WebPA should be made available as a campus wide platform. Objective: This paper takes a theory-to–practice approach to highlight the practical and pedagogical issues surrounding a successful implementation of WebPA in the peer assessment of group work. The paper compares the experiences of a large (n=139) class, taking a Stage two elective module and a small/medium (n=44) class taking a Stage four core module in Semester 2 of 2014. Both modules are offered through the Food Science degree programme. Impact of WebPA on faculty staff: The Introduction of WebPA from the teaching perspective was relatively effective, primarily due to UCD's commitment to the pilot. This was evidenced by the allocation of key resources and an excellent technical support team to aid it's implementation. The initial time commitment was very light, as the types of forms and assessments were already in use for this cohort as paper versions. In general, the set up of groups and online assessment forms is intuitive and, where further clarification was needed, the WebPA resource pack provided very clear explanations and support (http://www.webpa.ac.uk/files/WebPA_resource_pack-low-res.pdf). Impact of WebPA on the students: At time of submission, only the stage 4 group has interacted with the technology, in the main the feedback has been positive, the only noted issue being 'remembering to do it' ! A reminder facility has already been introduced to alleviate this issue. The formal comparative study will be disseminated at the end of Semester 2 and will be fully explained/ explored in the paper.

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