How Does peerScholar Work? - Setting Up a peerScholar Assignment - Benefits of peerScholar - Selected Research Publications


How Does peerScholar Work?

peerScholar is a specialized learning management platform, developed at UTSC, for implementing the "switch papers and review your classmate's work" formative evaluation strategy.  Students create assignments, assess 4-8 peers' assignments, and reflect on the grades and feedback comments they receive.  peerScholar also incorporates a number of best-practice pedagogical strategies into the process, for example graphic organizers (also known as advance organizers) and grading rubrics.  Because the entire process is online, it's possible to use these strategies in large classes, as well as small ones.  Assignments can be any form of digital media (e.g., essays, sound files, video files), and grouping can be used to create situations where students assess one topic while writing on another - a feature commonly used in the context of case study assignments.


Setting Up a peerScholar Assignment

The peerScholar peer assessment tool enables students to provide constructive feedback on each others' work and facilitates critical reflection on how they might improve their own work. PeerScholar targets meta-cognitive thought processes, even in very large class contexts. Developed by Professor Steve Joordens and Ph. D. Student Dwayne Pare at the University of Toronto Scarborough, the tool is designed to allow students to think critically and creatively, to be analytic, and to communicate their thoughts clearly through peer assessment. peerScholar is available for use in Learning Portal courses.

For instructions on adding a peerScholar activity, please refer to:

In the create phase, students complete the assignment by pasting in their writing or uploading a digital media file to peerScholar.

Once the assignment is created and the scheduled start is reached, students will begin creating their assignments.

To be clear to students about what is expected, you may want to first watch these videos from the peerScholar co-creator, Dr. Steve Joordens on the pedagogical value of peerScholar: Assessing Peer Assessment / Importance of Providing Students with a Rationale for Assessment / Critical Thinking Utilizing Peer Assessment.

During the second phase, where students assess the completed work of other students, typically they review four - eight peers, by assigning a numerical value and offering comments.   This number cannot be used to assess actual grades in U of T course, it is for formative use only. Peer Scholar presents the work of the other students anonymously by default, to reduce bias.

In the third phase, students receive their peers’ evaluations and written feedback.   Depending on the preferences set in Peer Scholar, students may submit revised work with comments about how peer feedback influenced the revision.

For tip sheets and further information, please visit:


Benefits of peerScholar

peerScholar provides a unique opportunity to examine and evaluate academic communications strategies from a perspective students can easily relate to, that of other students.

By repeatedly applying rubrics both as author and as evaluator, students better understand their value in identifying strengths and weaknesses, across a range of academic work.

peerScholar's explicit emphasis on the feedback, reflection and improvement cycle helps students go beyond glancing at an assignment mark to actively pursing strategies to improve their academic work.

Conducting reviews digitally and in a time shifted way is convenient and it tends to reduce the time between creating academic work and receiving feedback, a factor which has been shown to positively influence student learning.


Selected Research Publications

Joordens, S.,  Paré, D. E. & Collimore, L. M. (2015)  SWDYT: So What Do You Think? Canadian students’ attitudes about peerScholar, an online peer-assessment tool.  Learning Environments Research , 18(1) , 33-45.

Pare, D. E., & Joordens, S. (2008). Peering into large lectures: Examining peer and expert mark agreement using peerScholar, an online peer-assessment tool. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(6), 526–540.

Joordens, S., Pare, D. E., & Pruesse, K. (2009). peerScholar: An evidence-based online peer-assessment tool supporting critical thinking and clear communication. Proceedings of the 2009 International Conference on e-Learning.

Pare, D. E., & Joordens, S. (2009). The invisible researcher: Using educational technologies as research tools for education. The Journal on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, 5(7).

Joordens, S., Desa, S., & Pare, D. E. (2009). The pedagogical anatomy of peer assessment: Dissecting a peerScholar assignment. The Journal on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, 5(7).

Joordens, S. et. al. (2012). Zen and the Art of Metacognition: Quality-Based Discrimination, Peer Assessment & Technology. Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education.

Collmore, Lisa-Marie, Pare, D. E., & Joordens, S. (2015) SWDYT: So What Do You Think? Canadian students’ attitudes about peerScholar, an online peer-assessment tool  Learning Environments Research,  18(1) 33-45.