Peer evaluation and self assessment: a comparative study of the effectiveness of two complex methods of writing instruction in six sections of composition
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Over recent decades, the teaching of writing has evolved to incorporate a wide range of methods. Little is known, however, about the effect of many of these methods on student writing outcomes. Much of the literature offers description of teachers' classroom practices rather than study of effectiveness, highlighting a significant research gap. This process-outcome study begins to fill the gap in writing research by analyzing and evaluating two key methods in writing instruction using quasi-experimental methods. This study first defines and describes the numerous practices common to peer evaluation and self assessment and their theoretical framework, and, through an analysis of the literature, stabilizes the practices found to be most effective by instructors of writing, and supports these methods with a list of strategies for implementation. The effects of peer evaluation and self assessment on student writing were then measured. Each practice was assigned to two sections of first-year college writing. The differences between pre and post writing test scores from peer- and self-assessment sections were then compared against control sections. Findings were significant. Peer evaluation yielded mixed results: with a positive effect for low-ability writers, no difference from the control for middle ability, and a negative effect for high-ability writers. In contrast, self assessment was found to be more effective than the control for all levels of writers and more effective than peer evaluation for most writers, with a matching benefit for low-ability writers. These results indicate that all learners can benefit from self-assessment methods in writing, but that peer evaluation's impact is positive for more limited numbers of students and may have little or no benefit for others. The literature review and discussion of qualitative findings from this study also explore complexities of teaching with each method and strategies to support success, with particular focus on the impact of student motivation challenges on writing achievement.
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