"...students might learn more from producing than from receiving feedback reviews...the former is a high-level cognitive activity that helps develop critical thinking, that engages students actively with assessment criteria and that encourages reflection and learning transfer'

Rationale for Peer Review

Peer review involves students evaluating and commenting on the work of their peers.It is an important learning approach for a number of reasons.

Benefits of receiving reviews

Most research has looked at the value of students receiving feedback reviews from peers when compared to feedback from the teachers. Benefits include:

  • Peers often provide feedback that is easier to understand than that of the teacher as it is written in a language that is more accessible.
  • In peer review scenarios students might receive more feedback than is possible from a single teacher.
  • Some research shows that feedback from multiple peers can be more beneficial than feedback from a single teacher or a single peer (Cho and MacArthur, 2010)
  • Students will learn how different readers read and interpret their work; this is important for the development of communication skills where anticipating the reader response is important.
  • Peer review might save some teacher time as feedback provided by peers might reduce the need for extensive teacher feedback or might allow the teacher to better target feedback.

Benefits of producing reviews

There is less research on the benefits of having students review the work of peers and produce a feedback commentary. However, the following benefits are very likely as reviewing is an active and constructive process. Research support for the ideas below can be found in Nicol (2012), in Nicol, Thomson and Breslin (in press) and in the PEER pages on this website

  • Reviewing others' work directly develops the students' capacity to think critically and make evaluative judgements about the quality of work.
  • In reviewing students will often actively use teacher-provided assessment criteria to construct a feedback response. This application of criteria will help students decode the meaning of criteria and internalise them. Research shows that the better students understand what is expected, the better they perform academically.
  • In professional practice, graduates are not just consumers of feedback they are also producers. Hence reviewing others' work helps develop an important and under-taught professional skill. Reviewing might be the most economical way of giving students practice in this skill.
  • In reviewing others' work and producing feedback students learn how to evaluate the quality of their own work as they produce it – as exactly the same evaluative skills are involved.
  • Students report that in reviewing in others work they see ideas and approaches that they had never thought of before (Nicol, Thomson, Breslin, in press). They claim that producing reviews thus provides benefits that cannot be achieved through receiving reviews.
  • In reviewing and producing feedback on the work of peers, students simultaneously generate feedback on their own work. This is a significant benefit of reviewing as it gives student control over feedback processes and helps make them less reliant on feedback provided by external agents. This benefit however relies on students having completed work in the same topic domain as their peers



Nicol, D (2011), Developing the students' ability to construct feedback, Published by the QAA in higher education pdf


Nicol, D (2013), Resituating feedback from the reactive to the proactive. In D. Boud and . Molloy (eds) Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well. p34-49. London: Rountledge. Abstract


Nicol, Thomson and Breslin (2013), Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: a peer review perspective. Accepted for publication by Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-21 iFirst Print  Abstract


Nicol, D (2013) Peer Review: Putting feedback processes in students' hands. Perspectives in Pedagogy and Practice, Journal of the Centre for Higher Education Practice, University of Ulster. Find here


Nicol, D. (2014). Guiding principles for peer review: unlocking learners' evaluative skills. In Advances and Innovations in University Assessment and Feedback, ed. C. Kreber, C. Anderson, N. Entwistle and J. McArthur.:Edinburgh University Press. Abstract  Complete_Paper