Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Using WebPA for Peer Assessment of Laboratory-Based Group Work, by Laura Hancock

Using WebPA for Peer Assessment of Laboratory-Based Group Work
Laura Hancock

Group work can be unpopular with students. The main reason for this seems to be the presence of ‘free-riders’ who are content for other members of their group to complete the majority of the work. Whilst it may be considered to be a more authentic experience if all group members receive the same mark for their work, at university level (especially in first year) it is important to ensure that the mark each student receives is a fair reflection of their contribution to the work, and this can be incredibly difficult.

WebPA is an online peer-moderated marking system designed to be used where a group of students receives a single mark for a piece of assessment. Students assess both their peers and their own contribution to the group work (either on a Likert scale or as a percentage) and these marks are combined with the overall group mark to generate an individual grade for each student. A worked example of the scoring algorithm can be found here*

First year chemistry and medicinal chemistry students at Keele undertake a laboratory based project in groups of 4 or 5. Each group is provided with a project title, list of objectives and the laboratory resources (both chemicals and equipment) available to them. The groups are required to produce a project proposal outlining how they will achieve the project objectives, undertake 8 hours of laboratory work and produce a poster to summarise their results. They receive separate group marks for the proposal and the poster.

We started to use WebPA for peer assessment of these group projects after using a stand-alone peer-assessment mark (generated from a number of questions students were asked to answer on a Likert scale using a Google docs form) which comprised a small percentage of the total mark (~17%). This method proved to be unsatisfactory as the difference the peer-assessment mark made to final grade was minimal, and it was incredibly time consuming to collect the individual data for each student. There were also comments from students that they did not feel the mark they had received was a fair reflection of their contribution to the work. WebPA goes a large way to addressing all of these concerns.

As part of our group projects, students are now asked to complete two forms, one to moderate the proposal mark and the other to moderate the poster mark. The latter includes assessment of contribution to the laboratory work. We have found WebPA to be exceptionally user friendly, and very quick to use. It is embedded within the KLE so it is straightforward to assign groups, and once the assessments are completed, the adjusted marks can easily be downloaded. In addition, it is easy and quick for students to use – there were no reports of anyone struggling to access or use WebPA. Importantly, 96% of students surveyed felt that the use of WebPA to moderate their marks was a fair way to assess their projects. Staff members leading the projects also believed that those who made substantial contribution had been adequately rewarded whilst any ‘free-riders’ had been penalised for their lack of effort. Following some student feedback, in the future we may expand the assessment to allow students to define their own criteria by which the group projects are assessed.

WebPA is a fantastic tool; it saves staff time and provides students with a fair and transparent method for assessing group work.


Creative Commons License
Using WebPA for Peer Assessment of Laboratory-Based Group Work by Laura Hancock, from Keele University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at