Many MOOCs have a system where enrolled students get points for submitting homework, and for grading a fixed number of their peers' homework (On a MOOC i took earlier, each student had to evaluate at least three other randomly selected submissions).

I'm wondering if anyone has used this approach in a physical classroom with handwritten homework submissions. Apparently this is legal in the US, but I'd like to know if anyone has first hand experience with managing the logistics.

I'd keep a dedicated 'tutorial' hour for this where I could solve and discuss the homework problems on the board, and students would grade problems. Perhaps the most selfish benefit is that I am spared the drudgery of grading an scoring a stack of homework.

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    This idea is being promoted by education experts at the moment. One reason is precisely to spare the drudgery (and time) of marking a big pile of work. The second argument is that doing so helps students learn to evaluate their own work, not just wait for your judgement.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 6:50
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    Something I have seen a teacher do (successfully) is to grade the homework based on completion. It saved time; the teacher simply walked around the room with a clipboard asking students to show him both sides of the paper (and you can be as through as you want). There was also a spot on the board for students to write the numbers of problems they struggled with, and other students could then work those out on the board to show the process (and gain extra credit). Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 7:23

4 Answers 4


Peer evaluation (offline) is common in many universities and schools.

It is beneficial for students to see what their peers have written and to learn from their own and their peer's mistakes and strengths.

However, a well-formulated evaluation matrix would be necessary for objective evaluation.

In my University, short papers are almost always evaluated by students themselves. There is blinding and we even attempted three independent, blinded evaluations and awarded the maximum marks obtained if and only if all the three evaluations were within 15% difference range.

Hope this helps.

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    Blinded evaluation can be easily managed by having students write ID number instead of name, for example. How did you manage the three independent evaluations? Do all students sit in one room to do their evaluations? How complicated is the evaluation matrix?
    – kabZX
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 17:40
  • So, what do you do if three evaluations are way off 15% difference range? Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 14:26
  • @kabZX We use Canvas LMS which automates peer reviews/assessments. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 1:56
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    @dmitry-savostyanov : A fourth review/assessment by a teacher decides the final mark. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 1:57

(In my field, mathematics, mostly graduate-level, in the U.S., at R1 university) although this may be marginally legal, and does have some constructive features, it also has many failings. An even more entrenched situation is that slightly-more-advanced grad students (or, worse, those whose command of English is too poor to be in a classroom as Teaching Assistant!) are assigned as "graders" for homework and exams for graduate-level courses... indeed, to "spare" the instructor (whose raises and status are based on "research", not "teaching") the burden.

After some decades of wanting to believe that this system could work, I have eventually come to see that it does not. Thus, if nothing else to show that I put my effort where my rants are, I do give frequent feed-back, comment-on and return promptly homework, ditto exams. Yes, I do also discuss (an anonymized form of) foibles I see in homework and exams. In particular, this system (while much more effort) is nearly-infinitely more informative about the actual state of the grad students' minds than if I merely had numbers reported to me. (And surely vastly more useful to students than much-belated or cryptic grading schemes.)

Also, again based on some decades of observation, the critiques that students could/do give each others' work (even with the best of intentions) is ... duh... quite naive. At best, literal "logical correctness" (already perhaps challenging) is not usually the same as "conceptual optimality", which is really the high-end goal for people who want to be professional mathematicians. That is, it is possible to be "correct" but, nevertheless, so suboptimal as to be "wrong" by any utilitarian criterion.

So, yes, it is good to rhetorically ask students to appraise things their peers have written, but with me (e.g.) as intermediary, not only "blinding" the consideration, but also guiding the appraisal in a way that not only accomplishes the immediate task, but is robust and re-usable, and perhaps not completely-obviously-so to the novice.

A related issue is that "prelim problem solutions" are often put on-line by grad students with good intentions, but in many cases (and not easy to distinguish by beginners) these solutions are very awkward and unconvincing... but, ironically, intelligible to other beginners. Meanwhile, often, what we (=faculty) want people to learn is how to do a more sophisticated thing, as opposed to muddling-by with a crappy technique.

(And, another irony, often the most assiduous people are the ones who accidentally believe that they can or should resolve all issues with their bare hands, rather than benefitting from a few centuries of experience of many quite able people. And can often-enough muddle through, and feel exhausted, thus reasoning that this must have been a virtuous action.)


This is not illegal in the UK, but is not a usual practice. Students are paying their fees in assumption that they will be provided with high-quality feedback that helps them learn and improve their work. If the students end up solving problems provided by some MOOC (which they can access outside of the University) and mark each others' work (which can be arranged without a University), then the role of the University reduces to merely stamping their exit awards, and the value of the students' degrees would be compromised.

  • Just to clarify; I'm NOT handing out problems asked or solved on a MOOC. My question was about using peer grading (often used by MOOCs) to a physical classroom.
    – kabZX
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 17:37
  • I don't think it's valid to say that this is not a usual practice. It is very common and expected in certain disciplines (creative writing, studio art, etc.) to have peer evaluation and feedback. There are many common classroom activities that inherently involve peer evaluation (project presentations).
    – David
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 19:39
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    A single lecturer or teaching assistant would not provide higher-quality feedback if he/she is overwhelmed with hundreds of submissions. In such a case, students might do a better work at this.
    – Leon Meier
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 23:17

Avoiding a stack of scoring is a completely valid reason to do this.

I have about 80 students this semester. If I spend 10 minutes evaluating each student in a week then that's 13.3 hours per week. If you consider that I'm physically in class for 9 hours per week and reviewing and preparing for those classes is another 9 hours per week, then I'm already at 31 hours before you start thinking about other obligations.

And then you sit back and realize that a 10 minute evaluation isn't time for anything more than marking problems right or wrong and scribbling a few pointers for next time.

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    -1 because this is an elaborate rationalization for not wanting to do your job.
    – user1482
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 21:54
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    I wasn't aware that my job as a professor was handing out assignments and giving back scores. Somewhere I got the crazy idea that there was more to it that that.
    – David
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 0:00
  • For those who have down voted the above comment, I urge you to read about 'Assessment Fatigue' which is a very human and real performance issue. It has been shown that the assessment quality of teachers (even the good ones) shows a gradual but definite loss of objectivity from their first student paper to the last. By the middle of a 80 paper stack, the performance is already degraded. We want teachers to do their thing, but we have to factor for their humanness too. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 1:59

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