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In this brief discussion, I examine some of the research done on the efficacy and problems of peer assessments. The implications—both operational and ethical—of the research findings will be examined, toward informing a reflective synthesis of the ideas discussed. As shall be seen, my aim is to argue for the imperative of teamwork over mere artificial group work, where one chief sub-goal of teamwork is effective communication between peers. My driving thought is that effective, open, honest communication is the only way to effective, honest, ethical peer assessment, altogether leading to productive teamwork.
Research and implications
One way in which the value of peer assessments has been studied is in terms of its use as a corrective against free-riding in group work. In a well-cited 2003 paper in the Journal of Education for Business, Brooks and Ammons describe the problem as follows: “The free-rider problem, also known as social loafing, occurs when one or more members of a group do not do their fair share of the work on a group project” (p.268). Free-riding is a problem, they point out, because research—and considerable anecdotal evidence, presumably—has revealed that it poisons for many...