Can We Trust Students To Peer Grade?

6/11/2014 12:00:00 AM
Holding Blank Score CardsI have a serious problem with the way we teach, assign, and grade student writing. I’ve always wanted to change my system, but could never come up with something I liked. Nothing felt right.

Earlier this year, I was invited to present at Techspo on Gamificaiton. There, I took the opportunity to sit in on a bunch of workshops. One workshop, in particular, caught my attention. It was called “Stop Bleeding Red Ink” hosted by the amazing Kate Baker.

During the workshop, she talked about the many awesome ways that she tackles student writing and grading in her class. I took a lot of great ideas away from the workshop, but one really caught my attention: she allows her students to grade each other and, if students agree on the grade given by their peer, puts it into the gradebook as the final grade.

Mind = Blown. This is what I’ve been missing.

I loved the idea. Immediately, I wanted to create a whole new writing system around it, but I was skeptical. Could I really trust my students to grade each other? I chased Kate down after the workshop and talked to her about it. Long story short: she assured me her students were fair in their grading, and I should try it for myself.

Challenge: Accepted.

Inspired by Kate Baker and these studies I created my own Peer-Graded Mastery system.

I was still worried when I proposed the idea to my students. Would it work? Would they take it seriously? I was worried how their parents would feel when they found out. Would administration back me if and when they found out (Ask for forgiveness!)?

The Pitch:

In February, I told students that, for the rest of the year, we would be instituting a better writing system: a Peer-Graded Mastery system. I told them that they would have a due date as usual, but on the due date their paper would go to a random peer to grade using a rubric, not me. If they agreed with the grade they received from their peer, it would go into the gradebook as the final grade. If they did not agree with their grade, they could redo it and choose to have it regraded by the same scorer, a new scorer, or myself. I told them they could redo and resubmit essays as many times as they wanted until they earned the grade they wanted. At the end of the process, they will fill out an evaluation that rates their scorer. At the end, everyone will get two grades: their final essay grade and a scorer grade.

“Wait, so we can redo and resubmit our essay until we get the grade that we want?” Yes.

“You’re not grading our papers anymore?” Not until the second round and only if you want me to. You’ve been with me long enough to know what good writing is, what I expect in an essay, and what I consider to be “A” writing. I’ve read enough of your writing to know you’re all talented. I’ll still be looking over shoulders, but we’re at the point where you’ll learn more from this process than me grading you.

“What if the kid who grades my paper hates me and gives me a zero?” Then you reject their grade, give the unfair scorer a poor evaluation, and request a new scorer or that I grade your paper.

“What if we just give each other hundreds?”

There it was! The same question I had. I hit them with my answer that I had practiced all night in anticipation:

Then I guess you get a hundred. “Really?” Really. Look, writing is a process. Writing is never done, it’s just done for now. Any job you get, you’re going to be writing. Don’t you want to be good at it? Why give each other hundreds if you can redo and resubmit your essay until you earn the grade you want, earn a grade that you’re proud of? If you want to abuse the system, go ahead. Every system has “those people,” but if you care about your future, if you care about getting better, improving, then I know you’ll do the right thing. I trust you guys. You won’t let me down. Besides, life has a way of sorting “those people” out.

I handed out a copy of the rubric they would be using to peer-grade, went over it, and told them to go home and self-grade their essays before the due date, which was a week away.

We’ve used my Peer-Graded Mastery system for two essays now. How does their peer-grading stack up against when I graded their essays? Can I trust them to grade each other fairly?

The first four essays I graded this year:


The last two peer-graded essays. Note: this is before anyone was allowed to redo and resubmit. These are the very first grades they were given by their peers.



My overall average: 85

Their overall, peer-graded average: 84

For the first essay they peer-graded, I went through and read every single essay and looked at every single rubric. Overwhelmingly, the rubrics were well done and the papers were well graded. Of the 71 papers I went back through, I found 8 papers that I thought were graded too easily by about 15-20 points. I found 4 papers that I thought were graded way too harshly, again, by about 15-20 points. For the other 59 papers, I felt my grade would have been within +/-5pts of the grade they were given by their peer.

The second time around, I pulled half the essays at random. This time, I found 2 graded too harshly and 2 graded too easily.

In both instances, all of the students who felt they were graded too harshly resubmitted their essay for regrading. Interesting: 7 kids felt their scorer was too easy on them and asked to be graded again. More interesting: 3 of the 7 students who felt that they got an inflated grade were not one of the ones that I had identified as being grade too easily. Some of my kids were being harder on themselves than I had been.

How did students feel about this process after their first time using it? How did they feel their scorer did?

peerdata2 peerdata3peerdata4peerdata6 peerdata7

The data from the second time they peer-graded their essay shows a general improvement on the quality of their scorer and their overall feelings toward the process.

I’m thrilled with how my Peer-Graded Mastery system has turned out. I’m glad I took the risk, and I am proud to see I can trust my students to grade each other fairly and honestly.

Next time, I’ll show you how the whole system works, so you can implement or modify it for your class. I’ll also talk about some ways I plan on improving it for next year. For now, the good news is our students are trust worthy.

Until then,


*Funny Story: Kate Baker teaches in the district next to mine. She’s literally ten minutes down the road and I had no idea! Unfortunately, we didn’t know of each other before Techspo, but we’ve been talking ever since. What a small world!*

cross-posted at Teched Up Teacher

Chris Aviles teaches English at Barnegat High School in New Jersey. He presents on education topics including gamification, technology integration, BYOD, blended learning, and the flipped classroom. Read more at Teched Up Teacher.
comments powered by Disqus
Photo GalleriesView All Galleries >
Acer C720-2844 Chromebook

( The Acer C720-2844 Chromebook model delivers speedy performance, a quick boot time of seven seconds, and a matte anti-glare display tha...

Britannica ImageQuest

( Britannica Digital Learning has upgraded ImageQuest, a resource for schools and libraries that provides nearly three million rig...


( Promethean has released ClassFlow, a free, all-in-one, cloud-based teaching tool that lets teachers create and deliver interactive...

Adobe Voice

( Adobe has released Adobe Voice, an animated video app for the iPad that lets users create and share video stories. The app incorporate...


( The BOXLIGHT DeskBoard mobile cart adjusts both height and tilt for the P8 ultra short throw interactive projector on a white surfa...

Core 36M

( Bretford has introduced Core 36M, a 36-unit charging cart that is optimized for Chromebooks but which also supports most tablets, l...

Edmentum Sensei

( Edmentum Sensei is a mobile optimized solution that helps administrators visualize and track overall school, teacher, and student p...

HMH Player

( HMH has released HMH Player, a new native app for iOS and Google Chrome that streamlines the learning experience for improved digital ...

Juice Power System

( Bretford has unveiled an easy-to-use modular power system with exchangeable power components. The Juice Power System uses unique &#...


( LightSail Education has announced a literacy accelerator that combines books with in-text embedded assessments and real-time dat...


( myON has expanded its digital library to include a set of literacy tools to further personalize the reading experience for students whi...

Nervanix Clarity

( Nervanix has released Clarity, an application that monitors student attention levels as they study and guides them to revisit conce...


( RobotsLAB has introduced MathBall, a smart sensor basketball and tablet system that offers curricula in algebra, pre-calculus, phy...


( Wasp Barcode’s MobileAsset.EDU solutions include everything administrators need to account for their assets, from software...

OpenEd Assessment Creation Tool

( OpenEd has announced a free tool that lets teachers easily create assessments with the question types required by Common Core standard...

Panasonic TH-80LFB70U

( Panasonic’s TH-80LFB70U interactive LED display features high-speed, multi-touch, interactive capabilities to promote partic...

penveu interactive display system

( The penveu interactive display system is a handheld device that turns projectors and large screen displays into interactive whiteboar...


( Califone has updated its PresentationPro speaker. The PA310 readily connects with computers, LCD projectors, mobile devices, intera...

PowerSync+ Mobile Companion App

( Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has announced the availability of the companion app for its PowerSync+ enabled charge and sync produc...

PureCharge Carts and Stations for iPad

( Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has debuted the PureCharge family of iPad and iPad mini charging carts and stations. By offering pre-i...

ProQuest Research Companion

( ProQuest’s new information literacy product, Research Companion, offers videos that guide users through the research process,...

Sphere2 & Class Send Student Engagement Software Platform

( AVer Information has developed a Student Engagement platform, providing teachers and students with the tools to transmit document ca...


( AVer has released the TabChargeCT2 charge cart solution, which can hold up to 40 Chromebooks, iPads, Android or Windows tablets, lap...

VoiceLift with Instant Alert and Emergency Video Monitoring

( The Instant Alert function of the Extron VoiceLift Microphone, combined with a PoleVault, WallVault, or PlenumVault classroom AV sys...

SMART Board 6065

( The SMART Board 6065 is an ultra HD, 4K interactive flat panel that offers collaborative capabilities while ensuring lessons run s...

Gaggle Unity Partner Program

( The new Gaggle Unity Partner Program provides free data integration services for all educational technology vendors. Through the Gagg...

Waterford Early Learning, Reading, Math & Science

( Waterford Early Learning Cloud can be used at home or to supplement lessons in classrooms. It can also be used for individual adap...

NetSupport School

( The latest version of NetSupport School allows teachers to monitor and collaborate with any mix of technology. An enhanced ...


( TechSmith’s Camtasia gives teachers the tools to record lessons, create videos, and engage their audiences. Educato...

Panasonic 3E

( Intel has teamed up with Panasonic to announce the Panasonic 3E, which uses the Intel Education 2-in-1 reference design. Designed ...