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An empirical study of gender issues in assessments using peer and self evaluations.


Traditionally, instructors unilaterally assess students' performance. However, increasing use of teaching and learning strategies in which students learn with and from each other may lead to increasing reliance on peer assessments. To this point, the authors of one study believe that peer assessments may replace most of the grading traditionally performed by instructors (Henderson, Rada, and Chen, 1997).

When students conduct peer assessments in collaborative learning environments, they have an opportunity to discuss and analyze each other's performance. Oftentimes instructors cannot observe first-hand the contributions of each group member to a collaborative project work, but peer and self assessments can provide a means by which group marks are allocated among the members of a group based on their relative contributions. However, moving students into the realm of grading raises questions about the validity of those marks and whether the gender of the raters and ratees affect the marks given and received (Ghorpade and Lackritz, 2001; Falchikov and Magin, 1997; Sherrard, Raafat, and Weaver, 1994).

Where actual differences in performance exist between male and female students, evaluations may validly capture those differences because they affect the nature of the contribution that a group member may make to the collaborative learning experience. Within medical education, several studies found that women were more skilled at eliciting concerns from patients and were more empathetic in consultations (Bean and Kidder, 1982; Marteau et al., 1991, Wasserman et al., 1984; Weisman and Teitlbaum, 1985).

Other literature suggests that women tend to be more open to other perspectives and incorporate the perspectives of others with their own, whereas men tend to focus more on their own perspective (Baxter Malgoda, 1992; Belenky et al., 1986). These gender characteristics might suggest that cooperative learning projects could be more appealing to female students as compared to male students. If a preference for this type of learning leads female students to have more enthusiasm about the collaborative activities, female students may contribute more to the group effort on average as compared to the male students.

Other variables may also affect the ratings given to male and female peers. Research pertaining to gender communication patterns in higher education suggests that males may receive more attention in classes than females by dominating classroom discussions (Simonds and Cooper, 2001; Brazelton, 1998; Kramarae and Treichler, 1990). This could give rise to a "halo effect" (Cascio, 1998), whereby the raters knowledge of the ratee's achievement on one dimension (classroom participation) influences performance ratings in another area. This could lead to male students receiving higher peer ratings on average than female students, regardless of the gender of the rater. Based on these studies, we raise our first research question, are there gender differences in peer assessments of team members?

Some researchers report evidence that teachers devalued the performance of students who are the same gender as the instructor relative to the performance of students who are the opposite gender from the instructor (O'Neill, 1985). Another study found that women in a class gave student group presentations higher ratings than the men did (Sherrard, Raafat, and Weaver 1994). The authors also posit that women may have higher empathy for their peers than men do and that this could be a reason for the disparity in the peer assessments.

Where peer assessments affect a significant proportion of the total marks for a course, we believe it is valuable to conduct analyses to detect whether gender bias exists in students' peer assessments. Only one study, to our knowledge, employs a cross-gender/same-gender analysis of peer assessments by comparing two sets of ratings (one from same gender and one from opposite gender) on the same students to determine whether significant differences exist in student peer assessments (Falchikov and Magin, 1997). Where Falchikov and Magin (1997) used data from groups that performed an assessment of their group members just once during the term, our study uses data from the third assessment performed by the groups during a term. Some literature suggests that the reliability of scoring improves if students assess each other at multiple stages rather than simply at the end of a project (Bacon, Stewart, and Silver, 1999).

Falchikov and Magin (1997) examined two cases. One case was a first-year science and technology course where students were assigned to projects on the basis of the topics those students selected. The other case involved data from a first-year graduate medical course on clinical and behavioral studies where students were placed in tutorial groups that lead to the production and presentation of a group report. Neither case resulted in evidence of gender bias, but further research seems warranted since peer assessments may be sensitive to the context in which they are performed. This leads us to our second research question, is there gender bias in peer assessments?

In a study that examined self assessment, Sherrard, Raafat, and Weaver (1994) found that self-assessment scores for group presentations were approximately 4.5% higher than the peer assessment scores of those same presentations. However, the study did not indicate whether or not gender differences existed in the self-assessment scores. When student self assessments are included as factors in determining the allocation of a group's marks to individual students, educators may also want to implement checks to identify gender differences in self assessments. Thus, we pose our third research question, are there gender differences in self assessment?

When evaluating our three research questions, we looked at both a global measure of performance and six specific work behaviors. While it may be difficult for us to know the exact nature of the reasons for gender differences that may exist in the peer or self assessments performed by our students, these tests may allow us to identify some of the attributes that affect the differences, if any, in the overall performance ratings.



The data for this study came from the third set of self and peer assessments completed by students enrolled in a required, introductory, cross-disciplinary business course. The course was team taught and used a business simulation game as the primary pedagogical tool to engage students in making business decisions for their group's company. Six professors (three male and three female) taught in the course. The course consisted of three modules: accounting, marketing, and management. So each student saw three of the course professors during the semester. Every student saw at least one male professor and at least one female professor during the first term of the course.

There were 12 sections of the course, and each section had 5 student groups (with 4 to 7 members in each group), resulting in 60 teams or groups. However, only 59 teams completed the self and peer assessments in the third round of evaluations. In addition to completing a self-assessment, each student also completed an assessment for each of their group members. Three hundred thirty students completed this final set of evaluations resulting in 330 self assessments and 1592 peer assessments (for a total of 1602 evaluations). Of the 330 respondents, 120 were female and 210 were male. Each group contained both male and female students.

The course was required for all business majors in the first semester of their freshman year. Transfer students were generally waived out of the course. Of the students included in the sample, 89.5 percent were freshmen, 8.7 percent were sophomores, and 1.9 percent were juniors. When classified by major, the largest group of students was business undecided (35.3 percent). Of the remainder, 16.8 percent were management/entrepreneurship majors, 15.0 percent were marketing/advertising majors, 8.0 percent were computer information systems majors, 7.4 percent were accounting majors, 6.5 percent were finance majors, 6.2 were international business majors, and the remaining 5.6 percent were other majors.

Data Collection

Each of the three modules contained at least one group project. Overall, these projects accounted for 31.25% of the course grade. In the accounting module, each group created a balanced scorecard strategy map for its firm in the simulation and analyzed the firm's performance in an oral presentation to the class. In the marketing module, each group designed a marketing plan for its simulation firm and presented that plan to the class. In the management module, each group designed a strategic plan and presented it to the class.

At the end of each module (three different points during the term), students completed a peer evaluation packet. The packet consisted of a cover sheet (Exhibit 1) that offered instructions on how to complete the packet and explained that the evaluations would be anonymously shared with their group members. The second page of the peer evaluation packet was an illustration of a completed feedback grid (Exhibit 2). Subsequent pages in the packet contained blank feedback grids so that the rater could complete one for each member of the team including himself/herself. The instructors of the course designed the assessment criteria based on conversations with students from the prior year about desirable or undesirable behaviors associated with team members.

Each student completed his/her evaluation packet outside of classroom hours. Each student placed his/her evaluation packet in a sealed envelope, wrote his/her name, the course section, and the name of the team on the outside of the envelope, and gave that envelope to the module instructor after the completion of the group project and presentation. After receiving the packet, instructors and a graduate assistant verified that the correct total number of points (equal to the number of team members times 100) was distributed among all team members, that the rating given to an individual on the cover sheet matched the rating given to that same student on the comment/feedback grid, and then re-assembled these evaluations so that a student would receive his/her cover sheet and the feedback grids that each of his/her teammates completed to evaluate him/her as well as the grid that he/she completed to rate himself/herself. The average of those scores for that individual appeared on the bottom of the cover sheet. This average was used as a weight to determine the individual's grade on the group work. If a group earned a 90 on its project and a particular student in that group received an evaluation from peers and self of 90 points, then that individual received an 81 as a grade on the project. In some cases, students received grades in excess of 100 points.


Table 1 offers a matrix with the average ratings received in peer assessments by gender of the rater. The top left group shows 100.36 as the average rating received by female students from female raters (F X Fr). In the next row, 100.49 is the average rating received by female students from male raters (F X Mr). The bottom left score of 100.44 is the average rating given to female students by all peer team members regardless of gender. The mean rating received by females from other females was not significantly different from the mean rating they received from males (t=-0.222, p=.825). The middle column shows that male students received a mean rating of 98.41 from females and 99.05 from males with a mean score of 98.83 from all peers. Again, the mean rating received by males from females was not statistically significant from the mean rating males received from males (t=-0.888, p=.359).

The gender difference in the average performance ratings of 1.61 points favoring female students, when comparing XF to XM, was statistically significant (t=3.577, p=.000). However, examination of the two diagonals of Table 1 reveals a lack of gender bias in the rating behavior of the students. The average rating received by students from raters who were of the opposite gender was 99.44. The average rating received by students from raters who were of the same gender was 99.38. The point difference of 0.06 was not statistically significant (t=-0.140, p=.889).

The evaluation forms also prompted raters to consider a list of individual work behaviors, such as promptly attending meetings, delivering work in complete fashion, meeting deadlines, volunteering for tasks, pulling fair share, and demonstrating a positive and enthusiastic attitude. Raters marked each of these criteria between 1 (never) and 5 (always) and some provided open-ended feedback on each dimension. Although scores on these individual performance criteria did not enter into the grading process, raters may have considered these marks in determining the overall performance ratings given to their team members. Table 2 indicates that gender differences existed along each of the individual evaluation criteria that appeared on the evaluation forms. Females received higher evaluations than males. When grouped on whether or not the rater was the same gender as the person being evaluated, the ratings on these individual evaluation criteria are not significantly different. Thus, no gender bias was evident.

Since the evaluation forms also offered raters an opportunity to provide open-ended comments on each of the six individual criteria (that are listed in the left column of Table 2), we tested for gender differences in the nature of that feedback (positive, negative, or mixed) and the frequency of that feedback. If the open-ended remarks by the rater were "clearly positive," the authors coded the category as positive. If the remarks were "clearly negative," the authors coded the category as "negative." If the remarks included both positive and negative feedback or included feedback that was not clearly positive or negative, the authors coded the category as "mixed." Since the variable in Table 3 is a frequency count across six categories, the variable can range from zero to six. The first row of Table 3 shows that females received positive remarks in an average of 1.796 of the six categories, whereas males received positive feedback in an average of 1.523 of these six categories. The difference, favoring female students, is statistically significant (t=2.649, p=.008). However, differences in the frequency of negative feedback (t=0.885, p=.376) or mixed feedback (t=-0.689, p=.491) were not statistically significant. The bottom row of Table 3 ignores the nature of the feedback and shows that females received feedback across a higher number of categories than male students evaluated by their peers. This difference was statistically different (t=2.335, p=.020).

When the data was grouped by whether the gender of the rater is the same or different than the gender of the evaluator, the results show that more mixed feedback is received when the rater is of the same gender. The mean frequency of mixed feedback was 0.120 for the same gender and 0.078 for the opposite gender (t=2.181 and p=.029). However, there was no evidence of gender bias in tests examining the frequency of positive, negative, or total feedback.

When the data was grouped by the gender of the rater, the results showed that females gave more total feedback (mean of 2.070 for female raters and 1.838 for male raters; t=2.152, p=.032) and females also gave more positive feedback than male raters (mean of 1.757 for female raters and 1.544 for male raters; t=2.103; p=.036). No statistical differences were found for mixed (t=-0.705, p=.481) or negative feedback (t=1.004, p=.316) by gender of the rater. When the ratings on individual performance criteria are grouped by the gender of the rater, the only statistically significant difference was for "pulled fair share with regard to overall workload." Females are less generous than males when numerically evaluating the extent to which their peers are doing their fair share (mean of 4.73 for female raters and 4.79 for male raters; t=-2.036, p=.042).

The overall performance ratings given by students when rating themselves (self assessment) ranged from 90 to 150. If a student wished to indicate that each person on the team contributed equally to the performance of the team, then a student would mark a 100 for each team member. Thus, a 90 indicates that the individual recognized that he/she contributed less than his/her "fair share" to the team's performance and a 150 indicates that the individual contributed far beyond what others did in the group. The mean self assessment score was 103.52. Since this is greater than 100, it indicates that individuals tended to think that they contributed a bit more than an equal share to the team. Table 4 presents the means and t-tests of the self assessments by gender. The mean rating that female students (103.80) gave themselves was not significantly different from the mean rating that male students (103.37) gave themselves (t=0.480, p=.632). Similarly, there were no significant differences between genders for self assessments on the numerical ratings of any of the six individual criteria that appeared on the evaluation form.


Most students tend to rate themselves as doing slightly more than an equal share of the work. One is reminded of Garrison Keillor's description of Lake Wobegon, where "all the children are above average." However, since we required that each student allocate marks among team members and his- or herself so that the sum of the allocated marks equaled the team size times 100, students are unable to rate all peers above average.

Gender differences are apparent in our data for peer assessments. On average, females scored higher than males, regardless of the gender of the person performing the evaluation. This suggests that there are actual differences in performance between male and female students when working on group projects. This performance difference was captured not only in the overall performance rating received, but also in the ratings for the specific performance criteria of promptly attending meetings, delivering work in complete fashion, meeting deadlines, volunteering for tasks, pulling fair share, and demonstrating a positive and enthusiastic attitude.

Since no statistically significant difference was found between the average numerical rating where the rater was the same gender as the person being evaluated and the average rating where the rater was of the opposite gender from the person being evaluated, there was no evidence of gender bias. This is reassuring in light of the prior research that reported evidence that teachers devalued the performance of students who are the same gender as the instructor relative to the performance of students who are the opposite gender from the instructor (O'Neill, 1985). We did not observe this among the students in this study.

The lack of gender bias in our data could be due in part to the way the groups and the evaluation process were managed. The composition of the teams did not change over the semester (except where students may have dropped out of the course), and the data was drawn from the third set of evaluations. By this point, students were more familiar with group expectations, characteristics of team members and their contributions, as well as the evaluation process itself (since the evaluation form itself never changed during the semester). Some have suggested that reliability in scoring increases when evaluations take place at multiple stages rather than simply at the end of the semester. Previous research has found that free-riding (social loafing) is reduced in multiple stage evaluations (Brooks and Ammons, 2003). Prior empirical studies on peer assessment examined gender only where the evaluation was the first (and last) of the semester. This study is the first to examine gender issues in self and peer assessments where the evaluation data is from a subsequent stage. So it would have been interesting to test whether any gender bias was evident in the first set of evaluations.

This is also the first empirical study of gender issues in peer assessments to examine not only an overall average rating received by peers, but also individual ratings on specific criteria, the frequency of qualitative feedback, and the nature (positive, negative, or mixed) of that feedback. While we find consistency between the performance difference by gender in the overall ratings and the ratings for six specific performance criteria, we also find that females tended to both give and receive more open-ended feedback than male students, and this feedback tended to be positive. The list of performance criteria and the opportunity to evaluate a group member both numerically and descriptively on those criteria may have helped students determine a fair overall allocation of the team's marks. Albert Einstein suggested, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." By not forcing any formulaic relationship between these specific criteria and the overall rating, students were also allowed to consider other relevant factors that were not listed and to weight the factors in any way they deemed appropriate.


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Marteau, T., C. Humphrey, G. Matton, J. Kidd, M. Lloyd, and J. Horder. (1991). Factors influencing the communication skills of first-year clinical medical students. Medical Education, 25: 127-134.

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Sherrard, W. R., F. Raafat, and R. R. Weaver. (1994). An empirical study of peer bias in evaluations: Students rating students. Journal of Education for Business, 70(1): 43.

Simonds, C. J. and P. J. Cooper. (2001). Communication and gender in the classroom. In L. P. Arliss and D. J. Borisoff (Eds.), Women and Men Communicating: Challenges and Changes, 2nd ed. (Chap. 13). Waveland Press, Inc.

Wasserman, R., T. Inui, R. Barriatua, W. Carter, and P. Lippincott. (1984). Paediatric clinician's support for parents makes a difference: an outcome-based analysis of clinician-parent interaction. Paediatrics, 74(6): 1047-1053.

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Janice L. Ammons, Quinnipiac University

Charles M. Brooks, Quinnipiac University
Table 1. Comparison of Peer Assessment Ratings of Overall
Performance by Gender.

F X Fr = 100.36   M X Fr = 98.41     Xoppgender = 99.44
(n=225)              (n= 347)              (n=690)

F X Mr = 100.49   M X Mr = 99.05   Xsame_gender =99.38 (b)
(n=343)              (n=677)               (n=902)

XF = 100.44       XM = 98.83 (a)
(n=568)              (n=1024)

(a) T-test for mean difference of 1.61 between XF and XM is 3.577

(b) T-test for mean difference of 0.06 between Xopp_gender and
Xsame_gender is -0.140 (p=.889).

F = female student evaluated; M = male student evaluated; Fr =
female rater; Mr = male rater; XF = average rating given to female
students by any peer rater; XM = average rating given to male
students by any peer rater; Xopp_gender = average evaluation
received from a student by a peer rater of the opposite gender;
Xsame_gender = average evaluation received from a student by a peer
rater of the same gender.

Table 2. Comparison of Individual Evaluation Criteria Grouped by
Gender of the Person Evaluated.

Evaluation Criteria            Gender of    N     Mean     Std.
                               Person                    Deviation

Prompt in attendance at        Female       564   4.78     0.562
team meetings                  Male        1006   4.67     0.784

Delivered agreed upon parts    Female       564   4.88     0.420
of project in a complete       Male        1006   4.80     0.604

Met deadlines                  Female       563   4.92     0.384
                               Male        1007   4.86     0.518

Volunteered appropriately      Female       564   4.79     0.539
during team meetings when      Male        1006   4.73     0.680
tasks need to be

Pulled fair share with         Female       563   4.83     0.506
regard to overall workload     Male        1007   4.72     0.704

Showed enthusiastic and        Female       563   4.83     0.522
positive attitude about team   Male        1003   4.76     0.646
activities and fellow team

Evaluation Criteria            Gender of     t     p-value

Prompt in attendance at        Female      3.411    .001
team meetings                  Male

Delivered agreed upon parts    Female      2.797    .005
of project in a complete       Male

Met deadlines                  Female      2.501    .012

Volunteered appropriately      Female      2.023    .043
during team meetings when      Male
tasks need to be

Pulled fair share with         Female      3.430    .001
regard to overall workload     Male

Showed enthusiastic and        Female      2.452    .014
positive attitude about team   Male
activities and fellow team

Table 3: Frequency and Nature of Open-ended Feedback on Six
Performance Criteria.

                      Gender of        N         Mean        Std.
                        Person                             Deviation

# categories with     Female          568        1.796       2.014
positive feedback     Male           1021        1.523       1.880

# categories with     Female          568        0.180       0.617
negative feedback     Male           1021        0.210       0.665

# categories with     Female          568        0.111       0.436
mixed feedback        Male           1021        0.097       0.356

Total # categories    Female          568        2.086       2.147
with feedback         Male           1021        1.830       2.013

                      Gender of        t        p-value

# categories with     Female         2.649       .008
positive feedback     Male

# categories with     Female        -0.885       .376
negative feedback     Male

# categories with     Female        -0.689       .491
mixed feedback        Male

Total # categories    Female         2.335       .020
with feedback         Male

Table 4. Comparison of Self Assessment Ratings Gender.

  Evaluation Criteria       Gender        n         Mean        Std.

Overall Evaluation         Female        120       103.80       7.765
                           Male          210       103.37       7.968

Prompt in attendance       Female        105        4.86        0.352
at team meetings           Male          191        4.82        0.439

Delivered agreed upon      Female        105        4.94        0.233
parts of project in a      Male          191        4.95        0.212
complete fashion

Met deadlines              Female        105        4.97        0.167
                           Male          191        4.95        0.246

Volunteered                Female        105        4.91        0.281
appropriately during       Male          190        4.91        0.294
team meetings when
tasks need to be

Pulled fair share with     Female        105        4.91        0.281
regard to overall          Male          189        4.93        0.274

  Evaluation Criteria       Gender        t        p-value

Overall Evaluation         Female       0.480       .632

Prompt in attendance       Female       0.811       .418
at team meetings           Male

Delivered agreed upon      Female      -0.375       .708
parts of project in a      Male
complete fashion

Met deadlines              Female       0.885       .377

Volunteered                Female       0.256       .798
appropriately during       Male
team meetings when
tasks need to be

Pulled fair share with     Female      -0.503       .615
regard to overall          Male

Exhibit 1. Cover sheet for team member evaluation packet.


Group Name:



At three different times during the semester (near the end of each
module), you will evaluate each of the members of your team. Fill
in an evaluation sheet for each of your team members. All responses
should be typed and then printed out.

Your evaluation and the evaluations from other members of your
group will be returned to the person that is being evaluated. In
order for these evaluations to be meaningful, you need to provide
your team members with constructive feedback. Let your team members
know what they are doing well and what they are not doing well.
Also, let them know how they can improve their performance. When
the forms are returned to your team members, they will not see your
name associated with your comments on their performance.

Place your completed Team Member Evaluation Packet in a sealed
envelope with your name, your group name, and your SB 101 section
letter indicated on the outside of the envelope. The envelope
should be turned in on the last day of the module.

The points that you award each team member will be used in
determining that team members grade on that module's group project.
Team members that do not do their fair share of the work may lose
points on group work, and team members that do more than their fair
share of the work may get extra points added to their group work.

On the overall evaluation, you will be "paying" each of your team
members with points. You have will have 100 points for each member
of your team. For example, if you have 6 members on your team, you
have 600 points to allocate. If everyone contributed equally and
did his/her fair share of the work, then each member of the team
should receive 100 points. If someone did more than his/her fair
share of the work, that person should receive more than 100 points.
Likewise if someone did less than his/her fair share of the work,
that person should receive less than 100 points.

After you have completed the individual evaluation forms (including
a page for yourself), complete the Summary Table below. Type in
your name and your team members' names. Indicate how many points
each member of your team should receive. The points in this summary
table should match the "pay" you indicated at the bottom of each
person's individual page.

Add up the points that you have allocated across the columns of the
summary table and put this number in the last column. This number
should equal 500 points if you have 5 team members or 600 points if
you have 6 team members.

Summary Table (Complete this Table)

Group             (Insert       (Insert       (Insert       (Insert
Members          your name       group         group         group
Names              here)       member's      member's      member's
                              name here)    name here)    name here)
Allotment of
Team Points

Group             (Insert       (Insert        TOTAL
Members            group         group         TEAM
Names            member's      member's       POINTS
                name here)    name here)
Allotment of
Team Points

If you do not feel that your group evaluation average accurately
reflects the work that you completed on your group project, you
should set up a meeting and talk with your team members. After
talking with your team members, if you still do not feel that you
have been evaluated fairly, you and your team should schedule a
meeting with that module's professor.

Exhibit 2. Sample sheet in team member evaluation packet.

Team Member's Name: Sample Team Member

  Evaluation Criteria:         For each        Provide comments and
                              criteria,        constructive feedback
                              rate this       in the spaces provided
                             team member              below:
                              on a scale
                             of 1 (Never)
                            to 5 (Always)

Prompt in attendance at           5
team meetings.

Delivered agreed-upon             5
parts of project in a
complete fashion

Met deadlines.                    3          Sample team member was
                                             late completing the
                                             PowerPoint presentation.
                                             He was supposed to
                                             complete it on Wednesday
                                             afternoon, but he didn't
                                             finish until late
                                             Thursday night.

Volunteered appropriately         4          Sample Team Member was
during team meetings when                    always at the meeting,
tasks needed to be                           but he was not always
accomplished.                                prepared for the meetings
                                             and hardly ever had
                                             anything to contribute.
                                             Sometimes, he just sat

Pulled fair share with            5
regard to overall

Showed enthusiastic and           5          Sample Team Member was
positive attitude about                      always enthusiastic about
team activities and                          how our company was doing
fellow team members.                         financially.

Overall Evaluation

Based on the points         Overall Feedback (this is mandatory):
available for the team, I
would "pay" this person     Sample Team Member was really motivated
85 for his/her share of     at first, but at the end of the module,
the team points.            he let the team down when he was late
                            with the PowerPoint. When he missed his
                            deadline, it meant that the entire team
                            had to stay up all night rehearsing our
                            presentation. Once Sample Team Member
                            knew he was having trouble with his part
                            of the assignment, he should have asked
                            for help.
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Author:Ammons, Janice L.; Brooks, Charles M.
Publication:Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2011
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