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A project seeking to develop students’ evaluative judgement by pairing senior and first-year students for near peer mentoring was the subject of the latest fascinating presentation in CRADLE’s 2018 seminar series. Dr Merrolee Penman (University of Sydney) shared insights from the ‘Building Students’ Capacity for Evaluative Judgement through Near Peer Placements’ project, including student perceptions and challenges encountered within the project.

Here, CRADLE PhD student Susie Macfarlane (Deakin Learning Futures) reflects on her key takeaways from Merrolee’s presentation:

This project, undertaken by Merrolee and her colleagues, investigates approaches to developing OT and physiotherapy students’ evaluative judgement through near peer mentoring on placement. The project involved senior (final year) students facilitating junior (first year) students’ learning and helping them prepare for their assessment. Junior students were prepared for their placement and mentoring experience, while senior students were oriented to the placement site and expectations and were provided a workbook with information and tips on near peer mentoring, feedback and evaluative judgement skills.

Merrolee outlined the barriers and benefits of near peer mentoring identified in the evaluation. A key challenge in peer feedback is of course the credibility judgements that feedback recipients make in relation to their peer mentors. This project to a large extent overcame this challenge through academics’ endorsement of senior students as worthy teachers and mentors.

Dr Merrolee Penman presenting with audience in foregroundMerrolee’s project found that senior students developed their teaching skills, such as guiding their peers’ reflection processes. Senior students also reported that focusing on developing junior students’ evaluative judgement – through teaching them to seek and apply criteria to their performance – developed their own evaluative judgement. A key finding I found very interesting was that mentoring junior students helped the senior students develop a clear sense of their own development and progress. I have been reflecting on this finding, as it seems to suggest that students can effectively develop their evaluative judgement through observing and comparing their own performance with that of others, and have been prompted to further investigate the literature on this. In my experience, this kind of approach is rarely practiced in assessment in higher education, and the norm vs criterion-referenced framing of assessment practices may be contributing to this.

Merrolee’s project also raises for me the question of the transferability of evaluative judgement. Did senior students develop their evaluative judgement of their teaching and feedback capabilities, as well as of their capabilities in the professional domain?

You can view slides from Merrolee’s presentation here.