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Guide your students on how to give honest feedback

Step 3 – Train your students to give honest feedback accurately

See how we create better teams through better feedback

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Train your students

We give our students practice in using the survey instrument so they can accurately, honestly, and constructively assess their teammates and provide them developmental guidance. With our students, we align the survey rubric with the professional teamwork capabilities expected from our students’ level of study.


  • Explain how receiving feedback improves teammates’ contribution, reduces team dysfunction, and improves fair grade outcomes.
  • Align the teamwork learning capabilities sought through your assignment with the teammate peer assessment survey rubric.
  • Practice students applying the survey rubric to examples of outstanding, average, and poorly contributing teammates.
  • Practice your students giving constructive developmental advice based on performance to date.
  • Explain the consequences for students who excessively overrate, underrate, or neglect their responsibility to assess constructively.

How honest feedback improves team results

This step focusses on implementing the requirements to achieve Pillar 3 – Train in assessment. When all teammates in a team conduct honest and competent teammate peer assessment

  • Under-performers and freeloaders receive timely advice that they need to improve their contribution. They learn what specific behaviours they must develop and apply in the team’s future work together
  • Teammates are more motivated when they see that the higher their contribution, the higher is the personal result they receive from participating in the team’s work
  • As teammates learn to give and receive feedback, psychological safety is raised, a key determinant in raising team effectiveness and therefore the team’s result for its delivered outputs

For a systematic explanation of how teammate peer assessment contributes to improved team results, the causal loop diagram presented in Turbocharging teamwork, Chapter 2, might appease engineering and systems science students.

Align the peer assessment survey rubric

You will have considered the teamwork learning capabilities you sought through your design of the group assignment and your selection of the teammate peer assessment survey rubric. Now take time to help your students understand how they must demonstrate and measure these teamwork capabilities in their team.

In Movie 5.1 Patrick Dodd outlines his approach to training students how to rate each other accurately using the Deacon Carr Likert Scale rubric presented in Gallery 3.1. Emphasise that the average, typical teammate should rate as 3 rather than 5 on the five point Likert scale. In conducting this exercise, teams should bring to class the team charter they developed when you introduced your teams to their group assignment, Step 2 – Build your teams.

Movie 5.1 Train teammates to rate each other accurately through calibrating the peer assessment rubric

Practice applying the survey rubric

Some teachers give students practice at applying the survey rubric to exemplar cases. Table 5.1 provides an example for students’ discussion. Using the rubric from Gallery 3.1, what ratings would you apply for each of the ten factors?

Table 5.1 Peer assessment practice: Behavior as seen by others

Team memberDescription - as seen by others
SteveSteve was the team leader and a true group project champion. He was the best in the group in every category. Everyone in the team would recommend him highly for future group projects.
GregGreg was always prepared and submitted work on time to an extremely high standard. However, Greg was the team antagonist. He was very argumentative and spoke down to his teammates. Whenever someone would suggest something with which he didn't agree, he would say it was an idiotic idea.
PeterPeter was academically the least capable person on the team. Being a non-native English speaker he struggled with written English and submitted work that needed to be entirely re-written. However, his effort was second to none. He was always very encouraging and was very effective at creating team harmony.
PatrickPatrick, unfortunately, had many other commitments. He contributed little, if anything to the project. He rarely attended meetings, missed deadlines and never submitted his part of the project to the team. In effect, he relied on other teammates to do the work.
© Peer Assess Pro

The following exercise helps students recognise the impact of unrealistic self-assessment and unfair ratings.

  • Each student in a student team is allocated one of the four names from Table 5.1.
  • Each student receives the three descriptions of the other teammates from Table 5.1.
  • Each student receives the description of how they see themself (self-perception) shown in Table 5.2
  • Each student completes individually the self-assessment and peer assessment of the other teammates according to the unique set of descriptions with which they have been provided

Table 5.2 Peer assessment practice: Behavior as seen by self

Team memberDescription - as seen by self
SteveSteve, you were the team leader and a true group project champion. You were the best in your group in every category. Everyone in the team would recommend you highly for future group projects.
GregGreg, you were always prepared and submitted work on time to an extremely high standard. You believe that you were the true team leader with capabilities that far outpaced your teammates. However, you have had run-ins with Steve since your first semester and your dislike for him is well known. You are going to take this opportunity to give Steve the lowest scores possible to show your distaste for him.
PeterPeter, you recognize you were academically the least capable person on the team. Being a non-native English speaker you struggled with written English. You submitted work that always needed to be entirely re-written. However, you were always very encouraging and were effective at creating team harmony.
PatrickPatrick, you realise that you had many other commitments and were not able to contribute much to the project. You rarely attended meetings, missed deadlines and never submitted your part of the project to the team. In general, you relied on other teammates to do the work. However, you are going to rate yourself top marks, hoping to offset some of the scores you expect to receive from your teammates.
© Peer Assess Pro

These practice assessments can be conducted as a paper exercise. Alternatively, use the digital teammate peer assessment platform with which you intend to conduct the peer assessment, such as the platform illustrated in Gallery 5.1. Publish the results from the digital platform to each student, selecting the peer assessed score as the personal result method.

If you are use the paper exercise approach your students need to do some arithmetic!

  • Each student calculates their peer assessment sub-scores awarded TO all their teammates, illustrated in Table 3.4, Prepare the group assignment, Chapter 3.
  • One teammate collates all the teammates’ sub-scores into a sub-score tabulation matrix, Table 5.3. Calculate the (average) peer assessed score FOR each teammate, illustrated in Table 3.4, Chapter 3. Remind students to exclude self-assed scores from the calculation.
  • Each team summarises its results in a table like Table 5.4. Optionally, include calculation of the Index of Realistic Self-Assessment scores (IRSA).

Gallery 5.1 A peer assessment survey delivered through the Peer Assess Pro platform

Table 5.3 Sub-score tabulation matrix

Received FROMPeer assessed sub-score FOR
Peer assessed score‡ 80504010
‡ See Table 3.5, Ch. 3 for example calculations. Data are illustrative. Self-assessments are excluded from calculation of peer assessed score

With the calculations complete for Table 5.4 your students now discuss the results, exploring and explain the mismatches between self and peer assessment that occur. The epiphanies should occur when each student shares their previously-secret self-description prescribed in Table 5.2.

Pay particular attention to Greg and Patrick, both of whom greatly over-assessed their contribution to the team when compared with the assessment by their teammates. Their low Index of Realistic Self-Assessment scores (IRSA) of 50 and 10 are symptomatic of this conclusion. In contrast, the IRSA of 80 for Steve is symptomatic of the outlier, unfair, low rating provided by Greg. This will be apparent from the students’ inspection of their version of the sub-scores matrix, Table 3.4.

Table 5.4 Typical results from a peer assessment practice

Team memberPeer assessmentSelf-AssessmentIRSA‡Interpretation
Steve8010080Realistic high performer, but outlier, bullying assessment by Greg.
Greg5010050Overconfident average performer
Peter4030133Underconfident low performer
Patrick1010010Misguided under-performer
Illustrative data from Table 5.3. ‡ IRSA = Index of Realistic Self-Assessment = 100 x Peer Assessment/Self-Assessment. © Peer Assess Pro

Practice giving constructive feedback

Patrick Dodd in Movie 5.2 demonstrates how to introduce students to giving and receiving constructive feedback. This topic is extended in Step 6 – Courageous conversations. Nevertheless, the techniques presented here begin your students’ journey towards improving their psychological safety through learning to safely give and receive feedback.

Movie 5.2 Practise giving and receiving constructive feedback

Consequences of counterproductive feedback

Make students aware that you can identify counterproductive and dishonest peer assessment behavior through the peer assessment platform. Typical behavior includes

  • Lazy raters who give everyone the same, typically a high rating across all elements of the peer assessment rubric
  • Conspiratorial teams who give everyone the same, typically a high rating across all elements of the peer assessment rubric.
  • Outlier raters who rate a team member very differently than the rating given by other members of the team. For example they may rate a friend abnormally high and/or a disliked person abnormally low. Examples are the rating of Steve by Greg in Table 5.3.
  • Outlier self-assessments when a teammate rates themselves far differently than how their teammates rate them. Examples are the low IRSA ratings of Patrick and Greg, and the high IRSA rating of Peter in Table 5.4
  • Unfair, unpleasant, unhelpful, or inadequate qualitative remarks.

Step 5 – Manage the peer assessment explains how a peer assessment platform identifies and advises on interventions suitable for these counterproductive behaviors. In general, you invite the assessor or team to resubmit and justify more robustly their survey response.

In addition, remind students of the Academic Policies that apply to peer assessment. In particular

  • Self-assessments are excluded from determining their personal result, and
  • When a team rates each teammate the same, then the best they can achieve is the team result. Such a practice is academically dishonest because it unfairly treats a teammate who has genuinely contributed more than others to the team’s work, Academic Policy 10.89

Formative feedback

TIP! Conduct a formative teammate peer assessment with your class. An early formative peer assessment will familiarise your students with the teammate peer assessment process. Furthermore, a formative assessment gives at-risk students a fair opportunity to raise the quality of their contributions to outputs and teamwork processes, and thereby obtain a better personal result.

Fairness demands that students are encouraged to provide

  • Qualitative evidence that supports or explains the ratings awarded to each team member
  • Developmental advice that provides behaviourally-specific suggestions about how the teammate could better contribute to the teams’s future work together
  • Advice to the teacher about any issues they are experiencing regarding the group assignment or classwork generally

The teacher should strongly encourage submission of this qualitative developmental guidance when a peer assessment survey is conducted as a formative assessment early in the team’s work together. Teammates must know in a timely manner how to adjust their behavior to make up for lost ground that might penalize them in the final summative peer assessment for the assignment. Typical questions to ask are

  • Contribution to task accomplishment, leadership and team processes. For the teammate you have assessed, provide comment and specific examples of productive or ineffective behaviours related to your ratings for …..
  • Development feedback. What specific behaviours or attitudes would help your teammate contribute more effectively towards your team’s accomplishments, leadership, and processes? Please provide specific positive or constructive feedback that could enable the teammate to improve their behaviour productively.
  • Strengths. Considering your teammate’s strengths, how could that person coach other teammates to acquire similar strengths for Task Accomplishment, Team Processes, and Leadership?

Some teachers rate the quality of qualitative feedback provided by students to each other. Beyond a grade based on peer assessment rating, teachers apply an additional grade based on each student’s quality of feedback (Parker & Coykendall, 2012).

Overall recommendation

Once survey respondents have concluded their responses to both the quantitative ratings and qualitative feedback, it us useful to ask one summarising question “How likely is it that you would recommend this team member to a friend, colleague, or employer?” On a Likert Scale from Very Unlikely to Very Likely there is high statistical correlations between this rating and peer assessed scores. Consequently, this overall recommendation is helpful as a cross-check to confirm the peer assessed score derived from the sum of individual rating attributes.

Figure 5.1 Recommendation of overall contribution to the team’s work

How Peer Assess Pro helps

Table 5.5 How Peer Assess Pro helps the training step

Standard survey rubricReduces the time required by teachers to train students how to use the rubric to rate teammates accurately and fairly. If students have experienced the survey in one class they will be familiar with its use.
Survey administrationCost and time-efficient for teacher’s distribution and collation of peer assessment surveys, and the feedback of results to students. Convenient for carrying out survey training exercises.
Team dysfunction alertIdentifies dysfunctional and at risk behaviour by teams and individuals to enable proactive intervention by the teacher. Useful for demonstrating to students during training how unfair assessments can be easily identified.
Training exercisesTraining exercises and example calculations using a standard rubric improves the reliability and validity of the peer assessment process.
Mobile-friendly user interfaceSurvey responses and results can be undertaken easily on small mobile devices in addition to computers. See Gallery 5.1.
Knowledge base - studentsVideo and Frequently Asked questions that explain the purpose and process of teammate peer assessment and feedback. Illustrative examples of how peer assessment survey results are used to determine personal results (grades).
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