Get access

Enhancing the quality of peer review by reducing student “free riding”: Peer assessment with positive interdependence


  • Gloria Yi-Ming Kao

    Corresponding author
    1. Graduate Institute of Digital Learning and Education, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Gloria Yi-Ming Kao is currently an assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of Digital Learning and Education, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan. Her main research interests lie in the areas of e-learning technology, creativity, computer-supported collaborative learning, and digital game culture.

Dr Gloria Yi-Ming Kao, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology—Graduate Institute of Digital Learning and Education T4707F., No.43, Sec. 4, Keelung Road, Da'an Dist., Taipei City 106, Taiwan. Tel: 886-2-27333141 ext. 7467; email:



Collaborative learning tasks have been hampered by problems of unequal participation such as the presence of a free rider or dominance by a member of a group. Researchers in the collaborative learning domain respond to these problems with approaches designed to establish personal accountability for each student and relations of positive interdependence between students. These two notions have been borrowed and integrated with the present approach, which is designed for use in both traditional and online peer assessment. The key assumption is that introducing a greater degree of positive interdependence and personal accountability into the assessment process may reduce or eliminate free riding, while with students performing their ratings individually, dominance is unlikely to be an issue.

Practitioner Notes

What is already known about this topic

  • • A number of studies have found generally positive results for peer assessment.
  • • When implementing peer assessment, teachers are faced with a number of threats, including favoritism, unfairness, distortion of marking, low-quality comments and a lack of engagement.
  • • Numerous peer assessment tools have been developed to make assessment more fair for students.

What this paper adds

  • • The focus of this paper is on countering the threats of carelessness and favoritism.
  • • The paper describes an innovative approach called “Peer Assessment with Positive Interdependence” (PAPI), which was designed to counter these threats and enhance the overall quality of peer review.
  • • The PAPI approach encourages students to take a broader and more comprehensive perspective during peer assessment, enhancing their ability as “critical assessors.”

Implications for practice and/or policy

  • • PAPI enables students to benefit from the known advantages of peer assessment while minimizing threats to its effectiveness.
  • • PAPI makes it possible to target particular instructional goals, through the use of different weightings at different stages of the learning process.
  • • In particular, if teaching a class in which most students are “quality achievers” with only a few “critical assessors” teachers might adjust the weightings to promote the development of critical thinking skills.
  • • Conversely, if the class contains a high number of “critical assessors” but only a small number of “quality achievers,” the weightings could be adjusted to focus more on the individual assignments.