Insights from One Million Student Peer Evaluations with Kritik

Two years, 100,000 students and professors and over one million peer evaluations with Kritik. 

More important than the milestone is the learning that has happened along the way. Seeing how Kritik professors have adopted peer learning, how they have introduced it to their students, how they have innovated their teaching practices and how students have benefitted from a more engaging and interactive learning environment where they are encouraged through every activity to think critically.

What do 1 million peer evaluations look like?

15% of the evaluations were from group activities and 85% of the activities were from individual activities. 

Professors can assign from 3 to 20 evaluators per activity in Kritik, however, the average number of evaluators per activity is 4. This aligns with findings from our student survey, where students expressed 3 to 4 evaluations as the optimal number. It’s always important to balance the amount of work required for evaluations and ensure students have exposure to multiple perspectives through the peer assessment process.

For rubric creation, it’s best to keep them simple and focused on the learning objectives. Including 4-6 criteria per rubric is advised to ensure students remain clear on what it is they need to focus on in any given activity. This aligns with the average number of rubric criteria applied by Kritik professors over the previous two years. The average number of criteria per rubric is 5.

In Kritik, the average grading score increase per student per semester is 255%. Now, what does this mean? The grading score is an indication of students’ evaluative abilities and critical thinking. In order to be scored highly, students must demonstrate consistently that they are able to understand the learning objectives and draw connections between their peers’ work and the rubric criteria. They also need to be able to deliver meaningful feedback that is both critical and motivational. The grading score adjusts automatically throughout the semester to provide a measurement of progress to the professor and the students. 

In addition to these metrics, the Kritik platform has evolved adding new features like multi-topic activities, a feedback stage with group-based activities, and expanding our rubric templates to make the process easier and more efficient for professors. The 244 updates that have taken place are a direct result of our strong Kritik educator community who we work closely to advance and innovate our platform as they advance and innovate their teaching practices. 

Top 3 areas of learning from two years in review:

Common themes have emerged through 1:1 conversations, our Faculty-led workshops, feature requests and our live chat support over this period. 

  1. Culture Matters

When asked what factor led to the overall success of peer learning with Kritik, time and time again professors would credit the time and energy spent into creating a positive learning culture. 

“So far the students have not disputed anything and I think part of that is because I set up a culture at the beginning of the assignment and made it clear that it’s not busywork, it really is about higher orders of learning and trying to understand your value in that space.” - Dr. Jonathan Wisco, School of Medicine, Boston University
“I try and instill a culture where I’m not out there to get any students through my exams, in fact, I’m very open about if I write a question that negatively impacted my students, I want feedback on why that was and I’m going throw that question out because that’s not fair.” - Dr. Jonathan Wisco, School of Medicine, Boston University
“When it’s a group project, I tell my students that the overall goal is to make sure that your group fully understands what they’re talking about so when you’re presenting this potentially to a client, everyone’s on board and everyone knows what they are talking about.” - Dr. Karen Freberg, Strategic Communications, University of Louisville
“I knew I wanted the students to leave the class with a strong understanding of critical thinking, creative thinking, the general research process and the ability to receive and apply both constructive and motivational feedback to their peers.” - Dr. RayeCarol Cavendar, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Kentucky
“Seeing what others are doing and my spin on it in class was always positive, and the purpose was to get the students to think critically and get them to be at the point where they are comfortable about giving feedback in a useful and effective way and also receiving feedback, so it was always positive...definitely the self-reflection’s sort of is built into the gave them the confidence to know that their opinions or research and analysis are actually good.” - Dr. Daphne Hart, Business, University of Illinois at Chicago
  1. Consistency is Key

Students develop their evaluative skills, their critical thinking and understanding of course content through a consistent process of peer learning. We recommend any new professor using peer learning incorporates a minimum of 5 activities. This could mean 5 activity variations, a weekly or biweekly reflection, or scaffolding a larger assignment like a research project into multiple steps, or stages. 

The time required to set up each activity is minimal and many professors choose to use a template and consistent rubric they carry throughout the semester. This means students know what to expect and can refine their process and improve over time. 

This consistency gives students the opportunity to iterate and improve their peer evaluations by observing and critiquing the evaluations that their peers anonymously submit for their work. 

Making Kritik a consistent part of the assessment process is important on the professor’s end. In terms of the Kritik platform, each activity, whether it be individual or group-based, is set up in a similar way with a stated objective, instructions, and rubric with a clear schedule for students to know when they need to complete each stage: creation, evaluation and feedback stage. 

Strong evaluation and critical thinkings might not come over night, but on average, students’ grading powers improve by 255% over the course of the semester. Grading powers refer to how effectively students evaluate their peers. The grading power, a score out of 6, adjusts automatically after each activity. Grading power directly impacts the weights of the evaluations, meaning students with a higher grading power establish that they deliver strong and accurate feedback and have higher weighted evaluations than students with lower grading powers. 

  1. Structured freedom to think critically

In order to teach students how to think critically, we must give them the space to do so.

This means that students have the room to consider a topic, subject or question in different ways. To come to their own conclusions and present their findings and research in a way that is uniquely theirs.

Through performance-based assessment, Kritik helps professors construct and implement activities that engage students on a deeper level and experience the views and perspectives of their peers. 

As Shavelson et. al (2019) shares, “performance tasks are high-fidelity simulations of actual real-world decision or interpretation-situations found daily.” These real-world decisions, irrespective of the activity type - although this further enhances this experience - are built into the peer learning process with Kritik. Sharing and receiving personalized feedback requires a high degree of communication and soft skills to capture meaning from others’ comments, and ensure students can improve the thinking of their peers by delivering feedback that is motivational and critical. 

As Jonathan Wisco shared in a recent workshop, a real-world activity he implemented required, “teams of students to solve the impacts on the community and in this case it was a business proposal for increasing training and the efficacy of those training which is a huge problem in the business world.”
Karen Freberg shares how her students complete strategic communications assignments that simulate the types of experiences they will have in the real world: “I tell them [my students] that in the industry you’re going to have to do research and evaluate whether or not this campaign was successful and then decide what to do I try and make it as applicable to real-world as possible.”
Kelly Morse shares that incorporating peer review in her English class simulated the type of real-world environment and critical thinking her students would face after graduation and her students realized “over time that this is a skill that [they] actually really need to learn for the workplace, and they [realized] their peers actually had really good ideas and that they don’t just need to look at the teacher.”

While each case is unique, Kritik professors have found success in empowering students through peer evaluation while applying real-world learning and critical thinking with the structure and guidance that ensures students, no matter their stage of learning, receive the support they need to achieve the learning goals.

Reflection is an important part of the critical thinking process. As Ennis (1996) states, critical “thinking is also reflective and logical thinking”. Reflection requires the space and time to consider what has been done and what could be improved moving forward. The peer evaluation process in Kritik embeds this into every activity as students evaluate their peers’ work, evaluate the feedback received front their peers and evaluate their own work before submission.

Lastly, “due to the nature of critical thinking, critical thinking requires reflection and sociability” (Choy and Oo, 2012). Peer to peer interactions with Kritik, whether in online or in-person learning environments, play a critical role in the teaching and learning process. The act of being exposed to peers’ work, and sharing and receiving feedback means students have to navigate a new dynamic - that is working with their peers anonymously compared to only their teacher. 

“I felt that [Kritik] empowered my students to actually speak up, engage and actually participate sense was that they felt more comfortable actually expressing their opinions and it gave them the sense that they should express their opinions and ask questions more” - Dr. Daphne Hart, Business, the University of Illinois at Chicago


Guiding students towards academic success is directly related to the learning environment we build around them. The culture, the consistent and purposeful structure of rubrics, learning objectives and timelines, and the space and time embedded into each activity to think critically all work together to support students. 

Connect with us to see how you can leverage peer learning in your own courses and learn from other Kritik professors and over 1 million peer evaluations. 

Choy, S. C., & Oo, P. S. (2012). Reflective thinking and teaching practices: A precursor for incorporating critical thinking into the classroom. International Journal of Instruction, 5(1), 167-182.

Ennis, R. H. (1996). Critical thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

ERDOGAN, F. (2019). Effect of cooperative learning supported by reflective thinking activities on students’ critical thinking skills. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 19(80), 1-24.

Shavelson, R. J., Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, O., Beck, K., Schmidt, S., & Marino, J. P. (2019). Assessment of university students' critical thinking: Next generation performance assessment. International Journal of Testing, 19(4), 337-362.

Justin DeMarchi
Content Marketer and Education Consultant