Does comparative judgement reduce students' perceived cognitive load when evaluating mathematics solutions?


  • Jennifer Palisse School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
  • Deborah King School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
  • Mark MacLean Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver British Columbia BC V6T 1Z4, Canada


Comparative judgement, comparison, cogntive load, peer assessment


Comparative judgement can be used as a method of facilitating peer evaluation in educational settings. Early empirical findings indicate that evaluating peer work comparatively leads to improved learning outcomes when compared to evaluating peer work sequentially. This study explored the role of perceived cognitive load as a potential contributing factor in explaining why comparative judgement enhances learning outcomes. Undergraduate mathematics students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a sequential condition where students evaluated solutions one-at-at-time (N = 164), a pairs condition where students evaluated solutions in pairs that shared structural features (N = 186), or a second pairs condition where solution-pairs did not share commonalities (N = 182). To measure perceived cognitive load, students completed a questionnaire and provided written reflections on their experience of evaluating worked solutions. From these, we identified instances where students expressed difficulty during evaluation. Results indicate that presenting solutions to questions as pairs reduced the perceived cognitive load compared to presenting solutions sequentially, and the effect was more pronounced when the paired solutions shared common features. These differences were small, indicating that cognitive load may only play a small role in the effectiveness of comparative judgement for learning.