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Title: Learning about academic writing through holistic peer assessment
Author: Usher, Natalie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 6870
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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While there is a consensus among researchers that assessment should and can serve learning, there is less understanding of how it supports learning at a fine-grained level. This thesis uses design-based research to investigate the role of comment-only, holistic peer assessment in writing development. The theory of action synthesises Sadler's accounts of learning through assessment (1989, 2010) with Winne and Hadwin's (1998, 2008) model of self-regulated learning. It is theorised that participating in peer assessment helps students to develop evaluative expertise, which in turn enriches task perceptions, metacognitive standards and ultimately large-scale adaptation: the changes students employ in subsequent essays. Drawing on the theory of action, I designed a series of workshops for first-year English Literature students learning to write examination essays. The thesis reports on the first of two iterations. 21 participants assessed and discussed example essays; criteria were not pre-determined but emerged from discussion of four examples. Students then wrote a timed essay, assessed three peer pieces and received three reviews. A range of data was generated during the workshops, including written comments, reflections and questionnaires. Ten case study writers also took part in pre- and post-workshops writing tasks, think-aloud protocols and interviews. To trace the development of students' evaluative expertise, I coded inductively students' talk and comment about writing. Visualising the connections between emergent codes reveals writing quality as a complex web of criteria, with the essay question at the centre. There was a strong overlap between the official Faculty assessment criteria and the codes emerging from student data. However, students also frequently commented on procedural aspects of writing such as introductions and conclusions, which are left tacit or latent in Faculty criteria. Post-workshops, students' own metacognitive standards became increasingly reader-oriented and question-focussed, and these procedural aspects of writing drove the adaptations they made to their approach. I use rich, in-depth case study data to trace how, why, and when students made such adaptations. I also examine the role of peer feedback, which rather than offering new information, often verified or complemented the judgements students formed of their own writing during the workshops. The thesis thus illuminates processes involved in learning through assessment. It also shows that peer assessment is a practicable way of developing within the discipline both evaluative expertise and writing, which are key to lifelong learning.
Supervisor: Hopfenbeck, Therese ; Quinlan, Kathleen Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education ; Self-regulated learning ; Writing ; Peer assessment ; metacognition ; academic writing ; feedback ; university students ; assessment criteria ; task perceptions ; English Studies ; peer review