Common Peer Evaluation Challenges And Solutions

Updated: Jul 17, 2018



On this post we’re going explain some potential solutions to common challenges faced by Team-Based Learning (TBL) educators when implementing peer evaluation. These solutions are based on the drawbacks each method has which we have briefly outlined here.


If you would like a more in depth explanation of the various challenges each method has, read our post on the Pros & Cons of The 4 Peer Evaluation Methods for Team-Based Learning.

Michaelsen’s method


Challenges

  • It requires students to discriminate scoring creating a feeling of unfairness among students

  • This feeling of unfairness may lead students to take advantage of the system and coordinate to get the same score nevertheless

Potential solution


Michaelsen recommends allowing students to collude while giving peer evaluations with one restriction: they can only do so in peer evaluations that are conducted at the end of the course. If your students are trying to agree on what grades to give each other at the end of the course, it is likely because they genuinely believe their team members have made equitable contributions. On the other hand, if they’re trying to game the system at the beginning of the course, it can be assumed that they don’t know each other’s performance and are just trying to easily improve their grades.


Fink’s method


Challenges

  • Students can have a greater impact on each other’s grades than intended given that peer evaluation scores are used as multipliers, which impact students’ TRAT scores and in turn their overall course grade

  • Not being required to discriminate among their peers might lead to social loafing. This can affect group cohesion as hard-working students start getting irritated by other team members not taking work seriously.

Potential Solution


A solution for unwanted grade deflation is limiting the direction of grade adjustment. If a student performs well and gets a peer score greater than 100 his grade will be adjusted upwards but if a student gets a peer score lower than 100 his grade will remain unaffected.

Another interesting solution is combining both Michaelsen’s and Fink’s methods. Here is an example:

  • Students would start with the Michaelsen’s approach and would be required to discriminate among their peers

  • The score would then be transformed into a multiplier like in Fink’s method

  • Grades are then adjusted only upwards as mentioned previously

  • Those who have less than 100 are still advised but their grades do not suffer

This mitigates both the Fink’s and Michaelsen’s methods’ drawbacks by leaning on the strengths of both methods. As you can see, the benefits of one method counteract the other method’s drawbacks.


Koles’ method


Challenge

  • It’s not required to discriminate scoring among team members which leads to inflated grades and social loafing

Potential Solution


An easy solution is to require students to discriminate i.e. give all their team members different scores. If your class is graded on the curve, Jim Sibley, author of “Getting started with Team-Based Learning” suggests, to make your students aware that giving out the same score to all their peers will lead to their score becoming the average score of the class.


Texas Tech’s method


Challenge

  • The score is not used to adjust students’ grades. Thus, instructors can’t benefit from using the extra information provided by students to assess their class.

Potential Solution


The reason why this method is used by TBL educators in the first place is that sometimes students are not comfortable with letting other students impact their grades. This tends to happen in highly competitive environments. If you would like to use peer evaluation to adjust your students’ grade, the solution would be to increase student buy-in by reassuring them about the benefits of a graded peer evaluation in order to either start adjusting grades with this method or adopt another one.


Conclusion and Summary


We hope this post has given you a better idea of how to solve some common issues that arise when implementing peer evaluation. Here is a summary of some of the most commonly seen challenges and solutions in peer evaluation.


Michaelsen’s method

The main challenge revolves around student discontent due to the requirement of student discrimination. A potential solution is to allow students to collude on their peer evaluation scores but only at the end of the instructional period.


Fink’s method

The issue also revolve around student discontent but this time because students may have a significant impact on their peers’ scores. A potential solution is to limit the direction of grade adjustment to be only upwards.


Koles’ method

The issue tends to be grade inflation or social loafing and the potential solution is encouraging or requiring grade discrimination among students.


Texas Tech’s method

The issue is that scores are not used to adjust students’ grades and the potential solution is to move to a method that does this.


References


1. Goedde, Rick & Sibley, Jim. Approaches to Peer Evaluation: Pro’s and Con’s of Various Methods. [PDF]. Available at: http://learntbl.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Poster_TBL_peer_Feb2011-22nd.pdf [Accessed 04/06/2018]


2. Levine, R.E., 2012. Peer evaluation in team-based learning. Team-Based Learning for Health Professions Education: A Guide to Using Small Groups to Improve Learning, pp.103-116.