10 Reasons Why Instructors Should Use Peer Assessment

Four students doing group work

Kritik is built to empower students through peer learning methods by helping them practice giving unbiased, critical, and actionable feedback. This enables students with different learning styles to give and receive notes on improving their work. Students are given the opportunity to see different perspectives and understand the course material on a deeper level.

Peer learning methods empower students to take responsibility for and manage their own learning, enable them to learn, and provide others constructive feedback, which allows them to develop lifelong assessment skills.

Here’s what we will be covering in this guide:

  • 5 Essential Skills Students Learn through Peer Assessment
  • How does Kritik work as a Peer Learning Tool?
  • 5 Ways Instructors have used Kritik
Students looking at laptop during group work and one student holding paper

5 Essential skills students learn through Peer Assessment

Peer assessments have many benefits that may slide under the radar for students, they may not realize that they will develop essential skills needed in higher education and when they join the workforce. Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, high school education centers on students remembering, understanding, and applying class concepts. In higher education, there is a slight shift toward preparing students for the workplace. This is through centring student learning around drawing connections among ideas, justifying a stand or decision, and producing new or original work. Through peer assessment, students enhance their critical thinking skills and soft skills that are prioritized in higher education. These skills are also needed for the workplace employers are actively looking for these skills when looking for new hires.

1. Giving helpful feedback 

Providing helpful feedback is more than just telling the other person what they could have done better. Here are some key elements of good and helpful feedback:

  1. Feedback should be actionable so that the receiver knows where they can improve.
  2. Feedback should highlight what the author did well to encourage them to do their best work.
  3. Feedback should encourage peers to do their best work without being vague or passive.

Are your students providing ineffective feedback? Here are 5 tips to help you combat this issue.

2. Receiving critical feedback

The ability to gracefully receive criticism on work is one of the most important skills to grow and be successful in the workplace. Being defensive and closed to other opinions will portray the student as difficult to work with, which won’t translate well with an employer.

Encouraging students to learn from their peers’ assessments can produce more well-rounded work. Getting criticized can be difficult to stomach, but being open to it can improve the skills of those receiving it.

3. Appreciating diverse perspectives

Differing opinions do not necessarily equal disagreement. Nobody thinks exactly the same, but producing objectively well-received work makes a good student and employee. Accepting that there are differing perspectives from your own allows you to approach tasks differently.

4. Building critical thinking skills

Receiving feedback and listening to diverse perspectives does not necessarily mean that every comment should be accepted. Being able to discuss it with your peers and decide for yourself whether it is beneficial to apply it is a valuable skill to learn. Critical thinking benefits not only soft skills but also hard skills. Applying the knowledge learned in the classroom in the most effective methods, with the best techniques, is a hard skill that can be learned through peer assessment.

5. Being self-aware of strengths and weaknesses

The ability to know the areas you need to improve on and which you are strong at allows you to become a more rounded student and employee. Feedback given by peers can be positive as well as critical. Your takeaway should be recognizing how your content was understood by your peers, what you could improve on, and of course, what you did well. For example, if you see a pattern of feedback that pinpoints something that you did, you could take a step back to see how differently you could have expressed yourself to be better understood. Similarly, if you see your peers commending you on something you did well, you should build on that strength.

Look at what students who've used Kritik have to say about the platform!

How does Kritik work as a peer learning tool?

Kritik is a peer-grading platform that distributes fair and accurate assessments by harnessing collective intelligence to simplify workflows and reduce turnaround time on feedback. Described below are the four steps that the students and instructors have to go through to achieve the best results.

Step 1: Calibration

The Calibration activity is designed to align students' grading power with the instructor before their first assignment. This helps the instructor to see which students have the same ability to grade as them and shows students what a successful assignment looks like. To set up the Calibration activity, the instructor can pick a few sample assignments of varying competencies for students to evaluate based on a given rubric. Based on the quality of feedback and how close it is to the instructors’ grades, the students’ grading power is calculated. The instructor can also pinpoint the students who seem to have different expectations than them and offer them extra assistance.

Step 2: Creation

Now, the instructor can schedule the first assignment on Kritik with detailed rubrics and a deadline. Instructors have access to a repository of customizable rubrics and the support of our in-house Instructional Designer to design their activity with clearly outlined expectations The students must submit their assignment in the Create phase within the deadline before they move into the Evaluate phase.

Step 3: Evaluation

The students are anonymously assigned creations from 3-5 of their peers to provide critical and actionable feedback based on the rubric. The feedback is qualitative and quantitative, which encourages students to think critically about their peers’ work while honing their own communication skills.

💡Pro Tip: Evaluators are randomly assigned based on their grading power. Each student will get a mix of good-quality evaluators and students with lower grading power so that they get a chance to improve.

Step 4: Feedback

During the Feedback phase, the students get the opportunity to look at the evaluations their peers gave them and close the loop by sharing how helpful and critical the feedback given was. This part of the process allows students to understand what giving good feedback means and how to accept any criticism of their work.

Instructors have complete control and visibility through all these stages, resolve any grading disputes, and finalize the grades.

Share this video with your students when introducing Kritik to your class.

5 Ways Instructors have used Kritik

Kritik allows instructors to conduct a variety of assignments and projects. Below are examples of how a few instructors use Kritik in their courses:

1. Peter Teertstra: Individual reflection activities

“Create new learning experiences beyond lectures & quizzes that enable students to develop deep understandings of your subjects.”

Dr. Peter Teertstra teaches Thermodynamics and Mechanical Design at the University of Waterloo. He uses Kritik for students to submit a variety of assignments that include pictures of student-drawn diagrams and short written assignments. One of the key concepts his students often struggle with is being able to concisely and effectively communicate the details of a real-world engineering design problem. One of his students had to make a presentation on their learnings after a co-op position, and that student spent weeks editing the presentation. He found that students understood the class concepts better in a deeper, more personalized learning experience with Kritik. The platform created an immersive environment where students were able to see the different perspectives of their peers on coursework.

Table showing Professor Peter Teerstra's course activity, learning objective and student outcomes

2. Thomas Holloway: Case Studies

"Doing the project is obviously a learning activity, but then reading other people's version of the project, and putting grades on it, providing comments, is the thesis of Kritik as a product."

As a Portfolio Manager and capital markets professional, Prof. Thomas Holloway wanted his students to apply real-world learning in his courses and to keep student engagement up. In his Introduction to Finance and Business courses, he had his students use Kritik to solve case study assignments. Holloway found that his students enjoy using Kritik because the platform speaks to them. After all, it is similar to social media, where they want to be heard and seen and get responses to their work. He found that having the evaluation phase as 60% motivated his students to carefully read their peers' submissions and absorb the material, which allows them to give specific feedback to their peers.

Table showing Professor Thomas Holloway's course activity, learning objective and student outcomes

3. Sal Meyers: Group work

“I try to focus more on skill building than I do on content. Content keeps changing, but students continue to build on their skills which will be much more important to them in the long run.”

As an instructor of Social Psychology, Dr. Sal Meyers recognized that getting students engaged in a group writing activity was not easy. In the group-based activities she conducted in her class, she always saw inconsistent team participation. In the past, this led to scattered levels of commitment and a poor overall learning experience. With the understanding that a student’s learning environment has a direct impact on their thoughts and behaviour, Dr. Meyers decided to adopt Kritik in her class. With the group work feature on Kritik, she found that students were much more engaged and could build their soft skills.

Table showing Professor Sal Meyer's course activity, learning objective and student outcomes

4. Alex Gainer: Video projects

“I was quite surprised at how vigilant my students were in evaluating each other, and how serious they are towards Kritik”

Alex Gainer, Associate instructor of Economics at the University of Alberta, is passionate about helping people learn economics. Kritik is used in his economics classes to develop and nurture their curiosity for the subject. He does this through video submission projects that allow students to apply their knowledge of Economics by giving them scenarios that they need to present a solution. He found that his students were more prepared for discussions and that their understanding of course concepts became strong. Seeing his students respond to the same material with their own questions was a powerful confirmation that they could demonstrate concepts they understood.

Table showing Professor Alex Gainer's course activity, learning objective and student outcomes

5. Kelly Morse: Scaffolding 

"I’m trying to encourage them to consider that their instructors are going to their audience for a very short time and you need to work on these tools going out in the world.”

Dr. Kelly Morse is an instructor of English at Old Dominion University, she recognized that students had a default assumption that the reader of their work is the instructor and this demotivated students about their work. By incorporating a peer-to-peer assessment, where her students got to submit multiple drafts for peer assessment before sending in a final draft, her students were motivated to improve each time they submitted their final written piece. She found that, in the end, she was receiving better-written papers.

Table showing Professor Kelly More's course activity, learning objective and student outcomes

Kritik as the peer learning solution for your course! 

Kritik has created a series of videos as a guide for students and instructors in case they encounter any roadblocks while using the platform. We highly encourage you to share the Student Guide Youtube playlist with your students once they set up their Kritik accounts. 

We also have a Live Chat on our website that is available for students and instructors 24/7 to receive assistance on any issues on Kritik.

Schedule a demo with Kritik today to implement effective peer learning practices in your course. 

Shannon Li
Education Researcher