The Teachers Toolbox – Resources

Formative Teaching Methods

Peer assessment in pairs

The simplest form of peer assessment is to get students to work alone on an exercise for five minutes or so, and then get pairs to swap their work and assess each other’s. Feedback is usually verbal rather than in writing. It needs to be given in a supportive way.


“Find a formative teaching method such as peer assessment in pairs (directly below) and draw a diagram that summarises the bullet points that explain the strategy.”

You can use the diagram below or teaching method selection menus to help you.

Peer assessment in pairs with model answers

This strategy is useful if you are setting less work for students than you would like because you can’t keep up with marking. However peer assessment is good practice anyway.

  • Students do a worksheet of questions and put their name on it
  • They hand these to the teacher, who gives them out to other students to mark. Students do not know who is marking their work.
  • Students mark their peer’s work using ‘model answers’ or ‘worked solutions’ including a mark scheme provided by the teacher.
  • The work is handed back to its rightful owner and students each keep the worked solutions. Most students will probably check the quality of the peer’s marking, but the teacher does not.


In the case Gibbs reports, the teacher did not even take down the marks that the students’ obtained. The average mark on the unit rose from around 45% to around 75% as a result of this strategy!


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What is so special about Formative Teaching?

Professor John Hattie showed that feedback had a big impact on learning quality. Sadler ’89 analysed feedback to show that for learning to take place the learner needs to know:

•  The goal e.g. “I need to use the correct method to solve a right angled triangle with trigonometry. I need to use diagrams, and lay out my working correctly, showing the methods and equations I am using, and to calculate with few errors”

•  Their present position : how far they have achieved the goal. E.g. what they do right and what they do wrong “I use the correct method usually and show my working adequately, my diagrams are clear and I refer to them well in my working.”

•  How to close the gap between the goal and their present position e.g. “I need to ensure I don’t confuse sines and tangents. I need to be better at splitting up complex diagrams into right angled triangles.”

Formative Teaching Strategies provide these three vital pieces of information, often in a very vivid way. Note that feedback does not need to be provided only by the teacher, indeed it is often best provided by the learner or by a peer. This is because peer and self-assessment are very powerful ways to clarify goals, show how to improve, encourage the learner to take responsibility for their learning, and create in the learner a belief that improvement is possible.

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