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Peer Assessment and Developing Students' Professional Ethics

This paper was presented at the 2008 Engineering Conference - Innovation Good Practice and Research in Engineering Education.

Some assignments on an Engineering Sciences degree course at Southampton are peer assessed to enhance the students’ learning to: (i) enable the student to visit the subject material a second time (ii) observe and learn from how a peer addresses the same assignment and (iii) develop “fair” evaluation and critical skills in assessing peers’ work. It is with this last point that this paper explores the development of the students’ professional ethics.

Anecdotally some students appear not to engage with the peer assessment process they give a colleague’s work an assessment not related to the merit of that work along with minimal rationale. In this paper initial data are presented which show the effect on this engagement when codes of conduct are particularly emphasised at strategic times. The analysis of assessments from three cohorts of mechanical engineering students (the control sample between 46 and 88 students participating per cohort) are compared to one cohort (the test sample of 55 students participating) where this emphasis is particularly made. The analysis involves quantifying the level of the mark given compared to second marking by an academic and the level of feedback by the peer assessor.

Questions arising from this work include:To what extent should professional ethics be emphasised in engineering degrees? Do the students’ ethics develop significantly over a degree programme?

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