1 University of Melbourne (AUSTRALIA)
2 Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 5831-5841
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
At the international level, the higher education sector is currently being subjected to increased calls for public accountability and the current move by the OECD to rank universities based on the quality of their teaching and learning outcomes. At the national level, Australian universities and their teaching staff face numerous challenges including financial restrictions, increasing student numbers and the reality of time-poor academics and students. The Australian higher education response to these competing policy and accreditation demands focuses on precise explicit systems and procedures which are inflexible and conservative.

These bureaucratic practices undermine student achievement by failing to acknowledge that high level and complex learning is best developed when assessment, combined with effective feedback practices, involves students as partners in these processes. This social constructivist view highlights the importance of the peer review process in assisting students to participate and collaborate as equal members of a community of scholars with both their peers and academic staff members. Self and peer assessment are essential graduate attributes which enable students to monitor and evaluate the quality and impact of their own work and that of others. Without these skills students face a lifelong dependence upon others.

Within this context, in Case Study One, a summative, peer-assessed, weekly, assessment task was introduced in the first “serious” accounting subject offered as part of an undergraduate degree. The positive outcomes achieved included: student failure rates declined 15%; tutorial participation increased fourfold; tutorial engagement increased six-fold; and there was a 100% student-based approval rating for the retention of the assessment task. However, in stark contrast to the positive student response, staff issues related to the loss of research time associated with the administration of the peer-review process threatened its survival.

In Case Study Two, an e-Learning, peer-review process (PRAZE) developed at the University of Melbourne was utilised in order to resolve the administrative time issues raised by staff in Case Study One. PRAZE is a sophisticated rule-based system that manages every aspect of the peer review process including the setting up of assignments, the specification of classes and groups and the establishment of distribution rules. The on-line, PRAZE system provides a user-friendly interface to students and a suite of Web-based management tools for academics.

While a significant level of success was achieved in this latter case as highlighted by the student-based qualitative and quantitative data contained within this paper, the ability of students to effectively use the high-quality, peer-review feedback they received was limited by the absence of an appropriately embedded reflective process. Case Study Three was therefore re-designed to utilise the combined power of e-Technology, peer review feedback and carefully scaffolded and supported reflective processes to more effectively engage students in the assessment task.

In disseminating the results of these three cases, this cross-discipline and cross-university paper contributes to the core conference topics of the enhancement of undergraduate learning through a combination of curriculum-based, pedagogical and technological innovations which are designed to create a collaborative virtual environment.
Student engagement and collaboration, peer review, e-learning, reflective skills.