Asee peer logo

Peer Marking: Does it Really Improve Student Learning?

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD VI: Presenting "All the Best" of the First-Year Programs Division

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1146.1 - 22.1146.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Chris Smaill University of Auckland

visit author page

Dr Chris Smaill holds a Ph.D. in engineering education from Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and degrees in physics, mathematics and philosophy from the University of Auckland. For 27 years he taught physics and mathematics at high school level, most recently as Head of Physics at Rangitoto College, New Zealand's largest secondary school. This period also saw him setting and marking national examinations, and training high-school teachers. He has a successful, established and ongoing publication record where high-school physics texts are concerned, covering more than 20 years. Since the start of 2002 he has lectured in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Auckland. The scholarship of teaching and learning provides his research interests, in particular: the conceptual understanding of students, the high-school to university interface, computer-assisted learning, and computer-based assessment.

visit author page


Gerard Rowe University of Auckland

visit author page

Gerard Rowe completed the degrees of BE, ME and PhD (in Electrical and Electronic Engineering) at the University of Auckland in 1978, 1980 and 1984 respectively. He joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Auckland in 1984 where he is currently a Senior Lecturer, and serves as Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) within the Faculty of Engineering. He is a member of the Department’s Radio Systems Group and his (disciplinary) research interests lie in the areas of radio systems, electromagnetics and bioelectromagnetics. Over the last 27 years he has taught at all levels and has developed a particular interest in identifying and correcting student conceptual misunderstandings and in curriculum and course design. He has received numerous teaching awards from his institution. In 2004 he was awarded a (National) Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award in the Sustained Excellence in Teaching category and in 2005 he received the Australasian Association for Engineering Education award for excellence in Engineering Education in the Teaching and Learning category. Dr Rowe is a member of the IET, the IEEE, the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand (IPENZ), ASEE, STLHE and AaeE.

visit author page


Lawrence J. Carter University of Auckland

visit author page

Lawrence Carter is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programmes and has research interests in sensor technology, especially as applied to minefield remediation.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Peer marking – does it really improve student learning?The paper reports on an initiative in the first-year engineering course ELECTENG 101,Electrical and Digital Systems, at the University of ________. This paper is compulsory forall 600-plus first-year students. Typically two thirds of these students subsequently choose anon-electrical engineering discipline at the end of year one. Many may have no particularinterest in electrical engineering, and may even have not studied the relevant aspects ofphysics at high school. ELECTENG 101 has been seen as a difficult, „gatekeeper‟ course.Tutorial attendance declines through the semester, this effect being more pronounced inrecent years. In 2007 and 2008, some tutorial streams were, in the latter part of the semester,attended by only 10% to 20% of enrolled students.The motivating power of assessment has been well-established by research, with formativeassessment singled out for special mention as a way to improve student learning. Evidenceexists in the literature that the learning improvements delivered by formative assessmentpersist even when students, rather than the instructor, carry out the assessment. In an effort toboost tutorial attendance and engagement, and student achievement, peer-markedassignments were set in ELECTENG 101.This paper describes an investigation which addresses the research question: “To what extentwould peer-marked assignments improve student learning in the first-year electricalengineering course?” The research methodology followed is outlined first, including adescription of the method used to implement peer marking. We then report on the evidencefor success as measured both by performance in ELECTENG 101 assessments andperformance in a diagnostic test in a subsequent year-two course, and student, tutor and staffsurveys. We conclude by addressing possible confounding issues and weaknesses in ourmethodology.Students received a small number of marks for doing an assignment, and marking another‟s.Peer marking took place under the guidance of a staff tutor. The staff tutor went through theassignment in detail, explaining the correct solution to each of the questions and indicatingwhere marks could be gained and lost. Attendance at tutorial sessions improved verysignificantly during peer-marked sessions. Students were required to interact with the tutorialmaterial both from the perspective of one solving the problem, and also from the perspectiveof a marker.Survey results indicated that the great majority of students considered peer-marking hadmade them think more deeply about the material and also about how a solution iscommunicated. Examination performance improved over earlier years, with a markedlylower failure rate: 5.4% in 2009 when peer-marking was used, versus 10.4% in 2008 when itwas not. A diagnostic test of circuit theory concepts (administered to a subset of the Year 1cohort in the following year) showed such concepts were retained better. In the year prior tointroduction of peer marking, the mean result of the diagnostic test was 8.42 out of 20 and thepass rate was 47%. A year later the cohort involved in peer marking, sitting the samediagnostic test, achieved a greatly improved mean at 11.46 out of 20, with 52% passing thetest.

Smaill, C., & Rowe, G., & Carter, L. J. (2011, June), Peer Marking: Does it Really Improve Student Learning? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18717

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015