Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University College London 2006 (2006) Proc Physiol Soc 3, PC65

Poster Communications

A procedure for peer assessment of physiology practical reports by medical science undergraduates

Judy R Harris1

1. Physiology, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Peer assessment of student coursework has several advantages over assessment by staff. These include provision of rapid formative feedback to students; increased student understanding of what constitutes a ‘good’ piece of work; and significant savings in staff time, especially for large student cohorts (Orsmond, 2004). However, there are concerns amongst both staff and students that the process is not sufficiently robust, and that marking should remain the preserve of ‘experts’, i.e. staff. In this study, 132 first year medical science students completed a ‘proforma’ report for a practical investigating the effect of posture on drinking-induced diuresis. During the class, students worked in pairs and were allocated to one of three ‘posture groups’ – seated, exercising and lying with feet raised. Each pair collected their own data, and class data for all three ‘posture groups’ were collated. The latter were uploaded to a Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard). Students were required to complete a paper copy of the proforma report in their own time, using their individual data and the collated class data. This required graph-plotting, analysis of results and the identification of appropriate words/phrases to complete ca. 60 ‘blanks’ in the proforma report. A formative marking session was held one week after the practical class in which students were asked to ‘double-swap’ their work – this avoided reciprocal marking and reduced the likelihood of ‘buddy marking’. The session was led by a lecturer who annotated an electronic version of the proforma using a SMART interactive TFT writing and graphical display panel. The annotated proforma was broadcast simultaneously to 40 student PCs within our physiology teaching laboratory using SMART Synchroneyes classroom management software. Assessment was informed by a marking scheme devised by the lecturer and explained to the students during the session. To ensure that markers took the process seriously, they were asked to record their name on the marked script. Marks were collected at the end of the session and a random sample of scripts was double-marked by the lecturer. Students were asked to evaluate the procedure in terms of reinforcing subject-specific knowledge; increasing awareness of effective data presentation; and providing encouragement to complete the report carefully and to reflect on their work. Conclusions were: a) Assessment of 132 practical reports was completed in two sessions of 45 min each, compared with an estimated 30 hrs of staff marking time; b) The standard of work was high (average peer mark of 80.1%); c) With very few exceptions, there was good agreement between the marks allocated by students and staff; d) Whilst a small minority of students questioned the value of the process, most reported that it was a motivating and very useful experience.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements