Steve Joordens, University of Toronto Scarborough – Peer Assessment

You’ve got to think for yourself.

Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, discusses why critical thinking is vital for today’s students.

Professor Joordens teaches a very large Introduction to Psychology course at the University of Toronto Scarborough.  In addition, he is Director of the Advanced Learning Technologies Lab which is focused on building and accessing effective educational technologies. His work has won himself and his technologies a number of awards at the institutional, provincial and national level, including him being named a 3M National Teaching Fellow in 2015.  In addition he is also cofounder of Cogneeto, and Educational Technology start-up company that supports peerScholar, an evidence-based formal approach to the development of transferable skills.

Peer Assessment


In our dynamic world the future career and life success of our students will depend less on how much information they have acquired, and more on how well they can think – both critically and creatively – how well they can communicate, and how well they can work with others.  Our research is assessing the efficacy and scalability of a process that can be used to develop and measure these skills in seemingly any educational context with a minimum of disruption.  By this process, students first submit some composition that is intended to give them exercise with one or more of these skills.  They then see the randomly-selected and anonymously presented compositions submitted by a subset, say 5 or 6, of their peers.  Students are asked to analyse and provide constructive feedback on each composition, but critically they are also asked to apply a validated rubric related to the skill in question, critical thought for example.  Application of the rubric to peer compositions compliments their learning of the skill by allowing them to “discover it” in the work of others.  In addition, this process results in 5 or 6 rubric scores being applied to each student’s composition and our research shows that the average of those peer ratings provides a measure of that skill that does a great job predicting expert ratings.  Our current research is focused on scalability of the process to a wide range of subject areas and levels and our findings to date suggest that faculty and students alike value the process and believe it can have wide applicability and impact.


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