PeerScholar: An Introduction to Peer Review (with a Student Perspective)

Considering activity and assessment options for your course? Find out what students think about PeerScholar and peer assessment as a learning tool!

What is PeerScholar?


Quercus integrated learning tool that uses peer-assessment to implement active learning in the classroom. The learning process begins with students creating and submitting some sort of composition (whether it be an essay, video presentation, math or code) based on given instructions. Students then are given their peers’ work to assess and give feedback for improvement through comments, assessment criteria or guiding questions. Students then analyze, reflect on, and use the received feedback to create an improved submission.

Using PeerScholar as an Instructor

For each phase of the peerScholar process, the teaching team may modify instructions to create assignment guidelines, help students through the peer assessment process, and promote specific reflection and improvement.

PeerScholar Phases


With respect to peer feedback, instructors may adjust the number of peers a student assesses. They may also choose to activate self-assessment as part of this process. The assessment method can also be modified to suit the assignment (score, rubric, matrix, star, scale and comments). For grading purposes, instructors can mark participation in peerScholar activities. However, peer rating and peer feedback ratings cannot be used as final marks for the course.

Collaboration & Group Assessment Tools

PeerScholar also offers the ability to work collaboratively. There are different versions of peerScholar to choose from, including classic (individual work), case studies, and group work. After completing the creation phase as a group, the instructor can choose to continue the process in groups and have group peer assessment (groups evaluating a certain number of other groups), or individual feedback and assessment (similar to classic individual work). One other feature worth noting is group member evaluations. This can be added to the group work process, or can be used independently (separate from the peer assessment process).

Reflections & Perspective

Student Opinions: Head to Head

Student 1 (ECE 2T2): Effective (if done well)

I personally find the idea of peer review and assessment effective if done properly. The process promotes better student engagement in what needs to be learned and shows us directly how to improve. It also gives a sense of how peers approach and complete work and provides ideas we can learn from. However, I fear that some students may lack the motivation to mark properly and thoroughly given that marks are not directly involved (unless professors choose to mark participation and quality of feedback). This also causes some uncertainty in how and what the teaching team will mark when we complete peerScholar assignments. If poor feedback is given for example, this could greatly affect the final product that is submitted and marked.

Student 2 (INDY 2T2): Uncertainty in Implementation

As a student, I’ve always enjoyed giving and receiving feedback on my work from friends and classmates. Since this process usually happens organically, I’m very iffy on imposing the use of PeerScholar in a course. It might disrupt the natural classroom dynamics and bring negative attitudes towards peer review. I mean, why force something that’s already there? Though I know you can use participation marks as an incentive, I doubt students will be motivated to give quality feedback unless the teaching team are grading the feedback. Also, if I don’t know the peer that’s reviewing my work (oftentimes in a large class), there will be a lack of trust in the feedback given, which I believe defeats the entire purpose of peer review.

Student 3 (ECE 2T2 + T1): Productive Application

I had the chance to use PeerScholar to complete an essay, worth 30% of my final grade, for a philosophy course. My instructor allocated 5% of the essay grade for submitting an eligible draft, 10% for the quality of the peer feedback we wrote (marked by a TA), and 15% for the essay itself. PeerScholar put me in the mindset of viewing my project at 3 different stages: Create. Assess. Reflect. It emphasizes on the importance of giving and receiving feedback when working on any project. The chance to provide feedback to my peers meant that I had the chance to not only practise communicating my thoughts on paper, but also with critiquing others work. The Reflect stage helped me see the flaws of my essay that I did not see and allowed me to review my essay to make it better. That being said, PeerScholar itself supports these tasks, since it gave a variety of options for me to give my feedback via annotations and uploading a document or other media files, and it allocated a box for my instructor to provide prompts and/or questions which acted as a guide on how to structure my feedback as I was doing it.