CE  Vol.9 No.14 , October 2018
Peer Assessment in Writing Using Frog VLE in a Secondary School ESL Classroom
ABSTRACT
The study attempted to shed some light on the effects of using Frog VLE for peer assessment in writing in a secondary school ESL classroom and the students’ perception towards using Frog VLE for peer assessment in writing. A total of 50 Form Four students were involved in this study. A pre-test was given to identify their performance in writing essays. Later, they used Frog VLE for their writing tasks as well as to assess their friends’ work. The teacher posts many rubrics and guidelines for students’ reference in the Frog VLE. At the end of the study, a post-test on writing was given together with a questionnaire to find out the students’ perception on using the Frog VLE for peer assessment. The data collected were analysed using paired t-test while a descriptive analysis was used to find out the perception of students in using Frog VLE to do peer assessment in writing. The results revealed that students perceived using Frog VLE for peer assessment as very useful, enjoyable and their writing proficiency has improved. Some suggestions were given for further research.

1. Introduction

Peer assessment has obtained great importance in educational learning and research as stated by Azarnoosh (2013) . Many educationalists agree that assessment is an essential part of the teaching and learning process. The traditional method of assessment changed with the change of theories and models of learning. Teachers who were the sole assessor traditionally are no longer the centre of assessment anymore. Constructive teaching and learning have put forth assessment in the centre where students work hand in hand to carry out an interactive assessment which includes peer assessment as stated by Wikstorm (2007) .

With the emergence of the 21st century learning globally, many schools in Malaysia are beginning to adapt the different styles of teaching and learning. In the Yayasan Amir Trust Schools, students are involved in collaborative activities to evaluate their friends or do pair activity to assess their partners. Most of the time, the students assess their peers using a set of rubrics which is provided to the students in hardcopies as well as some training from the teachers. This traditional method is not a favourite among students. Since the Malaysia Ministry of Education (MOE) has spent a large sum of money on implementing the use of Frog VLE in government schools, it is timely that students use the technology for peer assessment.

Using the Frog VLE, students have access to various learning resources and also websites which can be of great use to the students. As stated by Hairuddin Harun, Esa, Amiruddin et al., 2016) , tools like PowerPoint, Flash, video and visual can be incorporated and applied in the teaching and learning process to help students to understand. Students can use the knowledge that they have on the peer assessment and the Frog VLE to perform better in their academic. They can use the tools provided by the Frog VLE like the Google search, spelling check and others to carry out their peer assessment. In fact, it is not necessary for them even to be in the classroom to conduct their peer assessment, but they can assess their friend’s work from the comfort of their homes at any time convenient to them. Students can even go beyond the rubric given by the teacher to assess and correct their friend’s work. Another positive aspect is that, when students get to assess their friend’s work through the Frog VLE, other classmates too can learn by looking at the mistakes made by their classmates and they will not make the same mistake in their own work. Many previous studies have been conducted on peer assessment, Azarnoosh (2013) , Alzaid (2017) , Landry, Jacobs, & Newton, (2014) and the usage of Frog VLE (Harun, Esa, Amiruddin et al., 2016) & (Kaur & Noorma, 2015) , separately but there has not been any which puts both the peer assessment and Frog VLE together to see the impact on writing. As both the Frog VLE and peer assessment is prevalent in the 21st century learning, students should be able to use both the tools and skills to enhance their learning. Today’s students who represent the millennium generation are very well versed with the technology and absorb new information faster. They will be able to grasp the skills, assess their peers and at the same time improve their writing abilities. It is believed that students’ writing competence will improve if the Frog VLE and the peer assessment are used in the right way.

Many secondary school students in Malaysia view writing English essays as a very difficult task, especially when they do not master the grammar rules, such as tenses, subject-verb agreement and prepositions as argued by Darus & Ching (2009) . English teachers find difficulty in teaching writing, precisely essays to secondary school students, as many of the students are lacking in vocabularies, grammar rules as well as ideas. However, they have been exposed to peer assessment and they love to use the Frog VLE to surf the internet. Therefore the teacher tried to use the Frog VLE to equip students with language rules and word bank and guide them to assess their classmates’ essays. After these activities were carried out, it is important for teachers to find out if there is any improvement in students’ essays. Thus, this study aims to find out if there is any improvement in students’ achievement in writing English essays when the two tools, peer assessment and Frog VLE, is combined in the teaching and learning process.

Research Questions

The objective of the research is to find out if there is any improvement in the achievements of students in writing essays in English with the use of Frog VLE and peer assessment. The data collected from the research will answer these research questions:

RQ 1: Is there a significant difference in students’ achievements in writing.

English essays by using the Frog VLE for peer assessment?

RQ 2: What is the perception of students towards using Frog VLE for peer assessment in writing English essays?

“Peer Assessment in Writing Using Frog VLE in a Secondary School ESL Classroom.”

2. Literature Review

Peer assessment is stuck in philosophies of active learning as stated by Piaget (1971) and may also be seen as an expression of social constructionism as mentioned by Vygotsky (1962) . Peer assessment can enhance the cognitive development of students as a result of environmental experiences which relates to Piaget theory. In peer assessment, students are given the opportunity to learn through the experience of assessing their peers. According to Topping (1998) , peer assessment is a procedure where students consider the amount, level, value, worth, quality, or outcomes of learning of peers who are of a parallel status. It is a process where the readers critically reflect and evaluate and recommend grades for their peers as stated by Roberts (2006) . Peer assessment has obtained a lot of significance in educational learning and educational research. Falchikov (1986) in her research had stated that peer assessment encourages reflective learning through observing the performance of other students and becoming aware of the performance criteria. Brown (2015) stated that peer assessment activates students as the owners of their own learning as well as instructional resources for one another. He further added that peer assessment has the potential to empower and engage students besides providing them with a better understanding of criteria used by instructors to evaluate their work.

Modern theories of assessments do not look at assessment as the end of course evaluation of the students’ achievement but as a part of the learning and teaching process. These modern theories look for a different type of assessment which can help students acquire knowledge and promote their understandings. Sun, Harris, Walther, & Baiocchi (2015) in their study also established that peer assessment causes a small but significant gain in student achievement. Their study also claimed that peer assessment reduces the burden to the instructors with minimal sacrifice to quality. Cheng & Warren (2005) further added that in the traditional pen and paper assessment, teachers play a major role whereas self and peer assessment is very much student-centered. The European Commission of Higher Education emphasized the importance of focusing on peer assessment skills as a new perspective where student assessment shifts from traditional testing to giving students an active role in the learning and assessment processes as stated by Lladó, Soley, Sansbelló, Pujolras, Planella, Roura-Pascual, & Moreno (2014) .

Another common debate about peer assessment is that whether the learner as the assessor is able to give the same grade if the work is assessed for the second time. This is a valid question because the learners who become the peer assessors are usually novices in both the content knowledge and writing genre (Cho, Schunn, & Wilson (2006) . In peer assessment, students are empowered to become the ‘teacher’ and this makes them feel appreciated. In addition, peer assessment gives the students a sense of pride and their confidence level is boosted. Indirectly, the students become brave and come forward to voice out their opinion which is a clear image of a 21st century learning. In addition to that, Harrison, O’Hara, & McNamara (2015) argued that self and peer assessment is a sustainable lifelong learning methodology which is very relevant to the 21st century learning. Students who carry out peer assessment and spot the mistakes of their peers will most likely avoid the same mistakes in their own work as indicated by Liu, Ngar-Fun, & Carless (2006) in their studies.

According to Thomas et al. (2011) , teachers should work hand in hand with their students in the assessment process and let go of their authority and pass it to the students which will give them the confidence and empowerment (Lew, Alwis, & Schmidt (2008) . Lew et al. (2008) also confirmed in their survey on students’ views on peer assessment, that it was carried out in a very unbiased manner and has helped them in their learning (Sivan, 2002) . Sivan (2002) also stated in his study that peer assessment used in their learning process had developed their critical thinking skills. Alzaid (2017) stated that peer assessment aims to transform students from mere receivers who only memorise and recall during test to active learners who can think creatively and critically.

The 1BestariNet project provides the students all over Malaysia an online platform with the Frog VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) founded by Frogasia which is fun and engaging. In fact, Malaysia is the first country in the world to connect all its schools on a single learning platform and the best part is it is free of charge according to Frogasia Training (2012) . Through the Frog VLE, students are given the opportunity to access quality knowledge which will be on par with the international education. Students from all walks of life and all locations, be it urban or rural, have equal opportunity to access the internet to hunt for more knowledge and information. Frog VLE provides a lot of benefits for students and teachers. According to teachers, students find it very useful when they are able to access materials not only in the classroom but also from the comfort of their homes. It gives the space for the students to learn at their own pace and styles which is suitable for them. Students who are absent from school do not have to worry about not being able to catch up with the lesson as they can always find the material which is uploaded by the teachers onto the Frog VLE. Another benefit of using Frog VLE is that it is able to transcend the boundaries of time and place. Students have the privilege to retrieve learning materials at their own convenience no matter where or when, as stated by Bouhnik & Marcus (2006) .

There are many students who live in the heart of the city but do not have the grasp of the language and are unable to write well in English. They go through a formal education for eleven years and have learnt English for the same number of years but end up not being able to speak, what more write in English as stated by Jalaluddin, Awal, & Bakar (2008) in her studies. According to a study done by Chuo (2004) , one of the main reasons for this situation is the students’ attitude towards writing. The students do not enjoy writing especially essays in English as they do not have a strong foundation of the grammar rules, lack in vocabularies and do not have ideas to construct writing. The study aims to find out if these obstacles faced by the students can be overcome with the use of peer assessment through Frog VLE.

3. Methodology

The researcher uses a quasi-experiment design to conduct the research and it is a quantitative study. It comprises a pre and post-test to identify the achievement in writing before and after the treatment as well as a questionnaire on perception of students which was adapted from Gardner’s AMTB with 3-point Likert Scale ranging from “Agree” to “Disagree”. 3-point Likert Scale is used in this study as there is no concrete way to ensure that students view the difference between the “strongly agree” and “agree” as the same way they view the difference between “agree” and “neutral” as stated by Jacoby (1971) . Besides, Dean (1962) has concluded in his study that Likert scale captures the direction, positive or negative, and not the degree of intensity.

The study employed a convenience sample of 50 Form Four students (18 females and 7 males) from a secondary school, which is also the only Trust School in the district of Petaling Perdana. Trust School falls under a programme launched by a nonprofit organisation, Khazanah Nasional. Under this programme, a private organisation, the LeapEd services work together with the public school to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The teaching and learning in a Trust School is closely related to the 21st century learning where the focus is on the students’ participation and involvement. Therefore peer assessment is given emphasis as part of assessment for learning. Teachers in a Trust School are trained to give students the opportunity to assess their peers either individually or in groups. The samples in this study are of an average proficiency level and from different race, religion and background.

A survey questionnaire adapted from Gardner’s Attitude and Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) (Gardner, 1985) with an adapted 3-point Likert Scale was used to examine the students’ perception on peer assessment using Frog VLE. The questionnaire comprises 20 questions and has two sections. Part A is on general demographic information of the students and part B is on students’ perception about using the Frog VLE for peer assessment to improve their writing skills.

The 50 students were from 2 different classes. One class was put under the experimental group while the other was named the controlled group. The data was collected using the pre and post-test and also the questionnaires.

Firstly, the 50 respondents sat for a pre-test of writing a descriptive essay. The essays were marked using scoring criterion used for continuous writing in the SPM English 1119 Paper 1. Prior to the pre-test, students have already been exposed to the use of these criteria. Their scores were recorded. Then the teacher explained thoroughly to the 25 students who were put under the experimental group on how they will be using the Frog VLE to assess their peer’s writing. Before explaining the whole procedure to the students, the teacher had already uploaded all the necessary materials or tools needed to assess an essay such as the subject-verb agreement table, list of adjectives to enhance writing, list of present tense and past tense table, sample essays for reference and other necessary grammar items. The teacher then brings the students to the Frog VLE room to show and explain what they are required to do. The teacher gives some examples on how to assess their peer’s work. Students were asked to write different parts of an essay and post it on the Frog VLE before they come for the class. Once they are in class, they assess their friend’s essay based on all the rubrics given earlier. Each student is assigned to evaluate a piece of writing. This process goes on for 8 lessons and students assess essays written by different peers. Once they have assessed the friend’s writing, the other students are able to look at all the mistakes as well as the corrected version. Initially, teacher had to guide the students but after the third lesson, the students were able to work on their own in assessing their friend’s work. Some students even carried on with the assessing in the comfort of their homes. Teacher monitored the assessment done by the peer from time to time and explained to the students in class.

The students sat for a post-test of writing a descriptive essay which was similar to the pre-test. Again, the scores obtained by the samples were recorded. The data was analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 21. Apaired t-test was carried out to compare the scores of both groups. After that, the samples were given questionnaires which were distributed in the classroom. They were given a clear instruction on how to fill up the questionnaire. The students were given about thirty minutes to answer the questionnaires. All the questionnaires were collected upon completion and the data was analysed using the descriptive analysis. It was then calculated and presented in percentage.

4. Findings

4.1. Achievements in Writing

Findings indicate that there are some improvements in the writing of both groups, with the experimental group advancing more than the control group.

The essays are graded using the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) English 1119/1 Paper 1 (Continuous Writing) scoring criteria which are as below (Table 1).

Based on Table 2, 15 students from the experimental group has moved at least one grade higher in their post-test compared to their pre-test. Only 10 students did not show any changes in their grades. On the other hand, for the control group, only 5 students showed some improvement in the post-test while 20 students remained in the same grades. 9 students from the experimental group were able to move from grade Ui to E while 4 students from the same group moved up from grade E to D. This shows that using Frog VLE to do peer assessment has a positive impact on the achievement of students in the experimental group.

Table 3 gives an overall view of the mean score and the standard deviation of achievement in writing English essays for the experimental and the controlled group. The mean score of the pre-test for both the experimental group and the controlled group is 16.32 and 17.04 which shows very little difference, that is a difference of 0.72. This shows that students from both the experimental group and the controlled group have the same proficiency level in writing English essays.

For the controlled group, the mean score for the pre-test is 17.04 while the mean score for the post-test is 17.80. The difference is only 0.76. This shows that there is no significant change in the mean score between the pre-test and the post-test. As for the experimental group, mean score for the pre-test is 16.32 while for the post-test, the mean score is 20.48 which shows a difference of 4.16.

Table 1. Scoring Criteria for Continuous Writing of SPM English 1119/1.

Table 2. Shows the improvement in the achievement of students in both the groups.

Table 3. Shows the mean score and standard deviation for both the groups.

This indicates that there is a significant increase in the mean score in the experimental group compared to the controlled group.

Table 4 answers the Research Question 1 (RQ 1).

RQ 1: Is there a significant difference in students’ achievements in writing.

English essays by using the Frog VLE for peer assessment?

The paired-samples t-test was conducted to compare the students’ achievement in writing between an experimental group and a controlled group. There was a significant difference in the scores for the experimental group which used the Frog VLE to do peer assessment (M = 4.160, SD = 3.145) and the controlled group which used a teacher based rubric to do peer assessment (M = 0.760, SD = 4.255); t (24) = −6.614, p = 0.000). These results suggest that using Frog VLE to do peer assessment has a highly significant impact on the students’ achievement in writing. Therefore, it answers the RQ 1 that is there is a significant difference in students’ achievements in writing English essays by using the Frog VLE for peer assessment.

Based on Table 4, there was no significant difference in scores for the controlled group which used the teacher-based peer assessment rubric (M = 0.760, SD = 4.255); t (24) = 0.893, p = 0.381 (p > 0.05). The significance value is more than 0.05 and this shows that it is not significant. Therefore, there is no significant difference in the achievements of the students between the pre-test and the post-test in the control group.

4.2. Perception towards Using Frog VLE for Peer Assessment in Writing

In order to determine the perception of students in using Frog VLE to do peer assessment, a set of questionnaires was distributed to the students in the experimental group after they did the peer assessment on essays written by their friends using the Frog VLE for 8 weeks (Table 5).

Table 4. Shows the results of the paired t-test.

Significant level is at < 0.05.

Table 5. Shows the mean and standard deviation value for each item built-in the questionnaire for data collection (Frog VLE).

The items in the questionnaire were divided into three variables, which are using Frog VLE, using peer assessment and using both Frog VLE and peer assessment. There are 2 items which referred to using Frog VLE which are “I enjoy going to Frog VLE room for English classes” and “I enjoy using Frog VLE for writing lessons”. The mean for item 2 is (M = 1.44) which is the third highest among all the items whereas the standard deviation for both item 1 and 2 are (SD = 0.408 and 0.712) respectively. This shows that students find it interesting to use the frog VLE room for writing activities (Table 6).

The second variable which is using peer assessment has 4 items and they are item number 3, “I like doing peer assessment in the classroom”, item number 4, “I enjoy doing peer assessment for writing”, item number 16, “I am able to identify errors in my friend’s essay” and lastly item number 17 which is “I realise my mistakes in the essays I write”. Among the 4 items, item number 3 and 4 has recorded the highest mean (M = 1.56) with a standard deviation (SD = 0.768). Items 16 and 17 have the next highest mean which is (M = 1.44) and standard deviation (SD = 0.768, 0.712). This shows that the students like to do peer assessment for writing (Table 7).

The third variable which is using Frog VLE to do peer assessment has the most number of items which are 12 items. All the items in this variable involve the use of Frog VLE and peer assessment as well as the impact of using both the tools in their writing. Among the 12 items, 5 has the same mean (M = 1.40) and this is the third highest mean among all the items and the items are number 6, “I always look forward to go to Frog VLE room to do peer assessment”, item 7, “Doing peer assessment using Frog VLE is very useful”, item 9, “My writing is more organised now”, item 11, “Now I enjoy writing English essays” and item 12, “I am more confident in writing English essays now”. Item 18 which is “Peer

Table 6. Shows the mean and standard deviation value for each item built-in the questionnaire for data collection (Peer assessment).

Table 7. Shows the mean and standard deviation value for each item built-in the questionnaire for data collection (Frog VLE and peer assessment).

assessment using Frog VLE has changed my perception towards writing English essays” has the next highest mean (M = 1.32). The results show that students who do not like writing exercise especially writing essays in English earlier have a different perception after using the Frog VLE to do the peer assessment.

This answers the Research Question 2 (RQ 2).

RQ 2: What is the perception of students towards using Frog VLE for peer assessment in writing English essays?

Students have a positive perception towards using Frog VLE for peer assessment in writing English essays. Data from questionnaires indicate that students did not like writing essays in English previously. This is recorded in item number 10 of the questionnaire, “Previously, I do not like to write” where 80% of the students have agreed to the statement. However after going through the treatment of using the Frog VLE for peer assessment, students’ perception has changed. This can be seen in items number 11, “Now, I enjoy writing English essays” number 12, “I am more confident in writing essays now” and number 18, “Peer assessment using Frog VLE has changed my perception towards writing English essays”. 72% of the respondents agreed to items number 11 and 12 while 76% of them agreed to item number 18. This clearly indicates that after the treatment, the students enjoy writing because they can use the Frog VLE for the writing and peer assessment purpose.

5. Discussion

Figure 1 shows the framework of the research. Students in the controlled group only used the teacher based assessment to improve their achievement in writing English essay but students in the experimental group used both the peer assessment and the Frog VLE to improve their achievement in writing English essay. This resulted in the increase of the experimental group students’ achievement in writing English essay.

The research investigates on peer assessment and Frog VLE and the impact the combination of both these tools bring on writing achievements among the students. There were many researches before which focused on the effect of peer assessment on speaking, reading and writing. There were also researches on the use of technology generally and Frog VLE specifically to see the effects on academic achievement. But this research focuses on the use of both to find out the impact on the academic achievement in writing in a classroom where English is the second language (ESL).

The second hypothesis states that there is no significant difference in the students’ achievement in writing in the post-test between the experimental and the controlled group. Based on the findings, there is a significant difference in the students’ achievement between the experimental and the controlled group. Previous study of Baron & Corbin (2012) on the use of peer assessment to improve writing, indicates similar results. Besides, Boud & Falchikov (2007) have also described the ability to evaluate one’s learning as an essential part of “becoming an accomplished and effective professional”. In addition, a study done by Race (2001) also supports the findings that peer assessment gives an opportunity for students to learn from their previous mistakes and identify their strength and weaknesses for a better learning. Stefani (1994) in her study has also found that students in higher education institution become highly motivated when they do peer assessment. Similarly, studies have also shown that using Frog VLE in the

Figure 1. Shows the tools used to investigate the impact on writing.

teaching and learning process have improved students’ understanding and achievements. Harun, Esa, Amiruddin et al. (2016) found that students become more interested in lessons incorporated with tools like PowerPoint, Flash, videos and visuals.

In this study, results show that students who used the Frog VLE to do peer assessment have performed better in their writing skills especially in writing English essays. Their grades improved significantly compared to the students who only used a printed rubric given by the teacher for the peer assessment. Students using the Frog VLE were able to make use of all the materials uploaded to check their friend’s writing exercise. They not only use the materials uploaded by the teacher but also search for other information on their own. Students are also able to read the work of their classmates and the mistakes made in writing, at the same time they have the opportunity to check their friend’s work. As a result, they learn not to make the same mistakes and also share ideas with their peers. This minimises the students’ mistakes and hence, they were able to achieve better grades for their writing test.

It is significant that students who use the Frog VLE and do peer assessment are able to achieve a better result in their writing. Therefore, it is important for the teachers to play their role well. Studies have shown that many teachers who do not make full use of the Frog VLE which is provided by the government to the school as stated by Kaur & Noorma (2015) in their study. This is supported by Harun, Esa, Amiruddin, et al. (2016) in his research on the Islamic education teachers’ readiness to use the Frog VLE. He found that only the young teachers like using the Frog VLE compared to the senior teachers.

6. Conclusion

English is a language not only spoken and written by many people around the world but it is also the language of the internet which connects people globally. Realising this phenomenon, the government has started implementing a new curriculum to help enhance the English language learning. It is very important to keep in mind that Malaysians, especially students need to improve their English both orally and in written form so that they can face the influential wave of globalisation in information and communication technology. Students should polish their writing competency in English as it is a great asset for them in future. It is an important skill in the workplace that translates into any career field.

Findings from the research show that pupils enjoy using the Frog VLE to do peer assessment. They look forward to go to the Frog VLE room compared to staying in the classroom for their English lesson. They find that by using the Frog VLE to do peer assessment, their grammar skills have improved. They also have more ideas to write essays because they make use of all the ideas shared by the teacher and also their friends in the Frog VLE. Students’ main problem in writing is the lack of ideas and vocabularies and this problem could be reduced when they use the Frog VLE as they can get access to a lot of materials in the dashboard prepared by the teacher. Students feel more confident in writing English essays when they started doing peer assessment using the Frog VLE.

Peer assessment has a very large scope for research. There have been many researches carried out previously on peer assessment. This study focuses on doing peer assessment using the technology which is the Frog VLE. The study is confined to a Trust School and only 50 average students living in an urban area. It did not involve any other schools or students. Therefore, future studies can be carried out at schools in a rural area which have the Frog VLE facilities to see if there is any difference in the achievement of the students. This study focuses on the achievement of students in writing English essays. Further studies may look into other areas of language like grammar or vocabulary in specific.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the two reviewers for careful review of our manuscript and providing us with comments and suggestion to improve the quality of the manuscript.

Cite this paper
Ramasamy, R. and Aziz, A. (2018) Peer Assessment in Writing Using Frog VLE in a Secondary School ESL Classroom. Creative Education, 9, 2265-2279. doi: 10.4236/ce.2018.914167.
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