Investigating student teachers’ profiles of assessors and assessees in the context of reciprocal web-based formative peer-assessment in a learning environment on ecosystems

University of Cyprus, Cyprus

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Peer-assessment is an educational arrangement in which students are actively involved in assessing their peers’ work; it can be perceived also as a learning activity due to the benefits which arise from its enactment. Peer-assessment is usually integrated in the context of formative assessment. The purpose of this study was to examine the heuristics and strategies of undergraduate student teachers in the roles of peer-assessor and peer-assessee in a web-based peer-assessment context as part of an inquiry-oriented science course. In particular this study sough to investigate whether different peer-assessor and peer-assessee profiles, patterns of students’ strategies and actions, emerge when students undertake the peer-assessor and peer-assessee role in two distinct research phases during which student employed different types of peer-assessment. This study also aimed to examine whether the strategies that we were able to identify associate with students’ learning gains, the quality of their learning products and also with the type of peer-feedback produced and received, respectively, in the two roles.

Twenty-seven participants from a university in Cyprus reciprocally assessed the digital learning products they prepared as they engaged in a web-based study unit on marine ecosystems and in particular prey-predator relationships. Students worked though web-based material that was developed for the purposes of the Science Created by You (SCY) project (; they worked in pairs, but on different computers, while enacting one inquiry cycle. Each step of this cycle led to the development of a learning product, which was uploaded by every student individually in their own web-portfolio; in total each student developed eight learning products. After the completion of each learning product in the SCY-Lab platform, or during its creation, the students were free to upload it in the Dropbox platform in a web-portfolio that was created for each student separately, so that it could be stored and shared with other students, and also to request feedback from their peers by formulating a specific question or prompt. During the first research phase, students employed unsupported (i.e. without the provision of scaffolds) and unstructured (i.e. without being instructed when and who to assess) reciprocal peer-assessment (UURPA). By uploading the learning products in their web-portfolios, students were actually sharing their work with the rest of the class; thereby students were free to navigate in the web-portfolio of any of their peers, review and assess any of their learning products stored in the web-portfolios. Hence, during their study, students could initiate a ‘feedback dialogue’ with their peers, as opportunities to reciprocally engage in peer assessment of their peers’ learning products via the Dropbox platform; this allowed the submitted peer feedback to be shared instantaneously with all students who could in turn view and use their peers’ feedback for revising their own learning products. By the end of the teaching unit, and as soon as students had completed all the tasks embended in the inquiry cycle, they uploaded their learning products into their final own web-portfolios. During the second research phase, students employed supported (i.e. with the provision of at least one scaffold that could enhance the assessment task e.g., assessment criteria) and structured (i.e. the pairs of assessors-assessees are predefined by the teacher, and students enact peer-assessment at a specific phase of the teaching intervention again determined by the teacher) reciprocal peer-assessment (SSRPA). In particular, students reciprocally and individually assessed the web-portfolio of a peer-group, which was randomly assigned to them, with the assistance of 3-Likert scale rubrics with pre-defined criteria. Students’ web-portfolios were also assessed by the teacher using the same rubrics. The students were then allowed to revise their web-portfolios based on both the peer- and teacher- feedback received. Students’ web-portfolios were coded to ensure anonymity.

Students actions on their screens were recorded during the whole intervention with the use of the RiverPast Software Pro. Data were collected through screen-video capture, peer and teacher feedback protocols, pre- and post-instructional tests and interviews, as well as the students’ learning products. Data were exposed to qualitative analysis and then also treated quantitatively through the use of non-parametric tests. Our analysis led to the identification of a range of student profiles characterizing different peer-assessment patterns. Regarding the first research phase, during which UURPA was employed, students were distinguished into autonomous (profile 1) and informed (profile 2) assessors while enacting the peer-assessor role; whereas in the case of the assessee role they were discriminated into engaged but unlucky (profile 1), disinterested (profile 2) and engaged (profile 3) assessees. Students’ learning gains were associated with their actions as peer-assessees and their attitudes towards peer feedback. With respect to the second research phase, during which students enacted SSRPA, findings revealed two main assessor and three assessee profiles. In particular, assessors were distinguished into autonomous (profile 1) and informed (profile 2) and assessees into teacher trusting (profile 1), teacher trusting and skeptical towards peer feedback (profile 2) and teacher and peer trusting (profile 3). In SSRPA, students’ learning gains were not associated with their actions on either the peer-assessor or peer-assessee role; all students had positive learning gains at the end of the intervention, regardless of the strategies they had followed. However, assessors’ profiles had statistically significant differences in the explicit guidance offered as part of the feedback produced; informed assessors offered more guidance compared to the guidance offered by autonomous assessors. In addition, assessees’ strategies were found to be associated with the structural components of peer and teacher-feedback received. Time pressure was a critical factor that affected assessees’ actions. Overall, the findings suggest that students, while enacting the peer-assessor role in both research phases (UURPA and SSRPA), have the potential to provide constructive structural components of peer-feedback (e.g. guidance offered to assessees, suggestions for revisions). The findings have implications for teaching practice as well as policy for teaching and learning in web-based learning environments. Guidelines for future research are proposed based on the findings of this study.

Thesis full reference:

Tsivitanidou, O. (2014). Investigating student teachers’ profiles of assessors and assessees in the context of reciprocal web-based formative peer-assessment in a learning environment on ecosystems. (In Greek). Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Cyprus, Nicosia. URL: 

Related Main Publications:

Tsivitanidou, O., & Constantinou, C. (2016). A study of students' heuristics and strategy patterns in web-based reciprocal peer assessment for science learning. The Internet and Higher Education. 12, 12-22, DOI:10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.11.002

Tsivitanidou, O., & Constantinou, C. (2016). Undergraduate Students’ Heuristics and Strategy Patterns in Response to Web-Based Peer and Teacher Assessment for Science Learning. In Malcolm Vargas (Ed.), Teaching and Learning: Principles, Approaches and Impact Assessment. New York: Nova Science Publishers, pp. 65-116. ISBN: 978-1-63485-228-9

Hovardas, T., Tsivitanidou, O. E., & Zacharias, C. Z. (2014). Peer versus Expert feedback: Investigating the quality of peer feedback among secondary school students assessing each other’s science web-portfolios. Computers & Education, 71, 133-152.

Tsivitanidou, O. E., & Zacharias, C. Z., & Hovardas, T., Nicolaou, A. (2012). Peer Assessment Among Secondary School Students: Introducing a Peer Feedback Tool in the Context of a Computer Supported Inquiry Learning Environment in Science. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 31 (4), 433-465.

Tsivitanidou, O. E., & Zacharias, C. Z., & Hovardas, T. (2011). Investigating secondary school students’ unmediated peer assessment skills, Learning and Instruction, 21 (4), 506-519.


Olia E. Tsivitanidou

Learning in Science Group

Department of Educational Sciences

University of Cyprus

P. O. Box 20537

CY 1678



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