Introduction

Welcome

Thank you for visiting the SparkPLUS web site. This web site is currently under construction and will be updated regularly. Please visit again to learn more about SparkPLUS, including additional detailed information about it's features and pedagogical rationale for it use.

About SparkPLUS

“Group projects aren't fair” is a frequent student response in higher education. Group work is used to facilitate peer learning and encourage students to develop collaboration, crucial graduate attributes. Since assessment strongly influences learning, any course objective to improve peer learning and/or collaboration must have assessment that promotes it.

Self and peer assessment is a valid solution for promoting these objectives and overcoming potential inequities of equal marks for unequal contributions. Group members are responsible for negotiating and managing the balance of contributions and then assessing whether the balance has been achieved.

Over the last decade our focus in using self and peer assessment has changed from making group work fairer (something it does automatically with careful implementation) to using it to produce formative learning-oriented feedback to complete the learning cycle and encourage the ongoing development of skills. More recently we have found self and peer assessment to be a valuable tool to produce learning oriented student centred assessments, facilitate collaborative peer learning and to develop monitor and track students’ attribute development.

SPARKPLUS is a web-based self and peer assessment kit. It enables students to confidentially rate their own and their peers' contributions to a team task or individual submissions.

SPARKPLUS not only enables students to confidentially rate their own and their peers' contributions to a team project, but also allows students to self and peer assess individual work and improve their judgment through benchmarking exercises. Being a criteria-based tool SPARKPLUS allows academics the flexibility to choose or create specifically targeted criteria to allow any task or attribute development to be assessed. In addition, SPARKPLUS facilitates the use of common categories, to which academics link their chosen criteria, providing a means for both academics and students to track students’ development as they progress through their degree. SPARKPLUS automates data collection, collation, calculation and distribution of feedback and results.

SPARKPLUS can produce three assessment factors:

  1. The Self and Peer Assessment (SPA) factor is a weighting factor determined by both the self and peer rating of a student’s contribution. It is typically used to change a team mark for an assessment task into an individual mark as shown below:
    Individual mark = team mark * Individual’s SPA
  2. The Self Assessment to Peer Assessment (SAPA) factor. This is the ratio of a student’s own rating of themselves compared to the average rating of their contribution by their peers. The SAPA factor has strong feedback value for development of critical reflection and evaluation skills eg, a SAPA factor greater than 1 means that a student has rated their own performance higher than the average rating they received from their peers and vice versa.
  3. The third factor is a percentage mark, the calculation of which depends on the type of task that has been selected (e.g. benchmarking exercise or marking individual work).

In addition, SPARKPLUS allows students to provide anonymous written feedback to their peers and provides a number of options for graphically reporting results.

The factors produced by SPARKPLUS are used to change group marks to individual marks. Without this automation, academics with large classes simply could not consider self and peer assessment.

As with all educational technology the essential caveat applies: Careful and thoughtful integration of student-centred tasks is vital for success!