Active learning and student peer assessment in a web development course

  • Trond Aalberg
  • Madeleine Lorås


Active learning is generally defined as any instructional method 
that requires students to do meaningful learning activities and engages students in the learning process. However, implementing active learning for larger groups and throughout the whole semester in a systematic way is challenging because of the resources that are needed to give feedback. Peer assessment, where students or group of students, evaluate each other, complements active learning very well and the combination is an effective learning method that is scalable and creates engagement. In this paper, we present our experience with active learning and peer assessment from a course in web development at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In this course, the students are assigned four different projects that are designed to introduce them to various technologies and frameworks. An important element in the course is that students should develop their skills in learning new technology individually as be able to evaluate each others programming and design, and learn from each other. Each project had 1-2 deliverable and after each deliverable we arranged an assessment day where students would meet up at the lab, team up with others and assess 4-5 projects. In the assessments they gave scores and comments according to different criteria. The assessments were used to produce reports back to the groups, and the scores were used by the teacher to decide points that were included in the final grade. Results presented in this paper includes a description of the elements and techniques used in the model. The method was evaluated in reference group meetings and through the annual survey at the department. Feedback from students is important input for tuning this learning method. Our findings include the observation that students are willing to put a lot of effort into activities they know count towards a grade. They also tend to give scores in the high range, which makes it hard to differentiate between students. The main challenges when implementing this approach is to overcome the free-rider problem of group work and design activities that are effective for learning, are manageable, as well as suitable for peer assessment.

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