Unlocking learners’ evaluative skills: a peer review perspective

The recent literature on assessment and feedback in higher education emphasises the need to develop students’ self-regulatory abilities. Students must be equipped with the skills to think for themselves, to set their own goals, to monitor and evaluate their own work in relation to these goals.  They must also be able to carry out such regulatory activities in collaboration with others, for example, where performance goals and tasks are shared. A pivotal construct underpinning the idea of self-regulation and co-regulation is that of evaluative judgement. The capacity to regulate their own learning fundamentally depends on students having the ability to make valid and informative judgements about the quality of academic work as it is being produced.  This capacity cannot be acquired through evaluative practices that are solely carried out and controlled by the teacher or where the primary conception of feedback is that of teacher transmission. In this keynote it will be argued that peer review is the most productive platform for the development of evaluative judgement and self-regulatory skills. Peer review is defined as an arrangement whereby students produce a written assignment and then review and write comments on assignments produced by peers in the same topic domain.  The presentation will synthesise recent research and provide a set of research-based guiding principles for the design of peer review.


David Nicol is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow. He was previously Deputy Director of the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement and Director of REAP, the Re-engineering Assessment Practices project ( ), a £1m project examining how new technologies might support improved assessment and feedback practices in three Scottish Universities. David is currently an expert consultant to the JISC Assessment and Feedback programme and Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster and Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. David has published widely on assessment and feedback, on e-learning and change management in HE. He is collaborating with partners in Spain, Australia and the UK on assessment and feedback projects. Some of David’s recent research on peer review can be accessed through the REAP website at