The Value of Peer Grading Using ExamSoft Rubrics

September 3, 2015 Ashley Castleberry

Dr. Ashley Castleberry is an ExamSoft client who graciously agreed to share her experiences with implementing and using our testing and analytics platform.

Peer grading (learners grading other learners) is a powerful tool. No one would argue with the idea of peer grading as an assessment method, but peer grading can also be an innovative teaching method.


A rubric (a predetermined set of goals and objectives on which to base an evaluation) is a powerful tool. No one would argue with the idea of a rubric as an assessment tool, but a rubric can also be an innovative teaching tool.

Together, peer grading with rubrics can be very valuable for assessment and teaching. Here’s why I think this is true:

  • Peer grading engages students in the material at a deep level (promoting higher-order thinking skills like analysis and evaluation).
  • Peer grading teaches students how to assess (which requires the application of content,not just knowledge of the content).
  • Peer grading enhances learning through knowledge diffusion (students exchange ideas and views when they read each other’s work and can actually teach each other).
  • Peer grading with rubrics clarifies the criteria for assessment (which improves the quality of work from the students themselves because they know what they will be evaluated on for the assignment).
  • Peer grading using rubrics facilitates metacognition (students’ self-assess their own work and reflect on what they know and do not know).

Creating a rubric for the first time may seem overwhelming,but here are some steps to get you started:

  1. List the critical elements of the assignment (these are known as the rows/dimensions).
  2. Create an evaluation range (these are known as the columns/levels and should include three to five categories).
  3. Carefully write descriptions for each level (start with the description for the best level and then substitute words for each declining level of performance).
  4. Use and revise (ask a colleague and even a small cohort of students to grade an example work with the rubric and to provide feedback on the rubric itself).

Having used ExamSoft rubrics for several assignments, I learned a few lessons that you might find helpful if using this feature for the first time.

  • Teach students how to upload assignments on the ExamSoft portal (this is different than taking an exam in SofTest).
  • Require the upload as a PDF (this is the best format for viewing across devices).
  • Perform peer assessments in class (this allows you to guide reviewers in their first grading assignment and to answer any questions they may have).
  • Train select faculty and students beforehand (multiple people in the room can then help troubleshoot issues and answer questions).
  • Upload documents for non-responders (if someone does not turn in the assignment, the graders will not have the benefit of grading someone else’s work. Provide them this same opportunity by uploading an example document for them to assess).
  • Ask students to not include their name in the file name (this would remove the anonymity feature of peer grading).
  • Teach students how to give honest feedback (this skill is valuable in all aspects of student development).

I use rubrics regularly for both assessment and teaching. I hope you can use of this method in your courses as well.

To learn more about how to use ExamSoft rubrics for peer grading and to practice making a rubric with the program, check out this helpful webinar. ready-made company


About the Author

Ashley  Castleberry

Ashley Castleberry is a Customer Strategist for ExamSoft and previous Director of Assessment at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy in Little Rock, Arkansas. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, she obtained a Master of Arts in Higher Education for Health Professions Teaching and Learning. She currently works at ExamSoft to help clients get the most from the assessment platform.

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