Pulman, Mark (2008) ‘Knowing yourself through others’: peer assessment in popular music group work. Doctoral thesis, Sheffield Hallam University.

This enquiry investigates the experiences and responses to peer assessment of group work involving cohorts of undergraduate popular music students over a five-year period. Working within the context of band rehearsing and performing, the enquiry focuses on how intra-peer assessment impact on students’ personal attributes and their learning.

The literature review presents an overview of peer learning, group work, peer assessment processes, and a survey of the peer assessment literature on music in Higher Education reveals a lack of research into popular music group work.

An action research design was established to study developing peer assessment activities of group work involving nineteen rehearsing and performing cycles. This allowed interventions and refinements to be made from cycle to cycle from which qualitative interview data and quantitative peer assessment data were collected.

The analysis and interpretation of this data explain the key themes that arose from the students’ experiences of peer assessment in the action research. These include the development of awareness and knowledge about their personal attributes. Confidence, feedback and a moral dimension, often involving honesty and trust, were of particular significance.

A new process model of intra-peer assessment is proposed. It offers a sequence of graduated stages of personal attribute usage, which create experiences over a period of time, that support students’ learning about themselves and about others through intra-peer assessment activities. The key activity, which also gives the model its particular distinctiveness, involves bands decide for each of their members appropriate personal attributes to be used as criteria for intra-peer assessment.

The enquiry emphasises the importance of providing experiential and interactional contexts for intra-peer assessment, as important learning opportunities arise from such settings. This study provides a social constructivist explanation for the development of students’ personal attributes and the building of trust and honesty in the rehearsing and performing cycles.

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