For as long as I can remember, technology has been seen as a panacea that will finally make education scalable beyond the one to few model employed in the classroom. As a result there seems to be an endless conveyor belt of edtech startups finding new (and sometimes very old) ways to utilise the internet’s networking capability to improve learning.
The latest to fall on my radar is Denmark-based Peergrade, which has built software to make it easier for teachers to enable their students to grade each other’s work. The premise, says co-founder and CEO David Kofoed Wind, is that cuts in education funding mean class sizes are becoming larger and that this puts added pressure on the number of assignments a teacher has to grade. At the same time, peer grading is a useful learning tool in its own right.
“Continuous budget limitations for educational institutions force teachers to teach larger classes and consequently cut back on the number of written assignments or grade more homework,” he says. “Letting students partake in the process of evaluating and giving feedback enables them to learn from the work of others, reflect upon the evaluation criteria in the course and [gain] skills in giving constructive feedback”.
To that end, Peergrade is a platform solely designed for facilitating peer feedback and peer grading within university courses. It lets teachers set an assignment and grading criteria, and invite students to upload their completed work to Peergrade, such as in the form of a Word document or YouTube video. The platform then distributes those assignments to different students who are charged with actually carrying out the grading and giving feedback.
“Letting each student evaluate 3 assignments both frees time for the teacher to focus on other aspects of the course and enables the student to learn more,” says Kofoed Wind, who is currently studying for a PhD at The Technical University of Denmark (DTU), focusing on machine learning and data analysis. It was while teaching a class of 130 students as part of his studies that he came up with the idea of Peergrade. He also previously worked at CERN.
Related to this, I’m told the platform uses advanced statistical models to estimate what would be a fair grade and help to eliminate peer bias, and natural language processing for inferring the quality of text feedback between students. “This enables teachers and students to trust the system, get and give fair grades and gain insight into their course,” Kofoed Wind says.