Building Deeper and More Authentic Connections Through Peer Assessment

Dr. Michael Jones is a professor in the Communication, Culture, Information & Technology program at Sheridan College. He joined us to share his experience using Kritik to engage students in creative communication assignments and bring new perspectives to students’ learning. 

His courses focused on media and design, and his goal was to help students rediscover the values of play and creativity through critique and engagement. Kritik allows students to easily share their creations in an online space and see each other’s growth and development over the term.

Learn about Dr. Jones’ experience with Kritik and even some unexpected positive surprises along the way.

What was it like to change teaching styles when transitioning online?

When the pandemic required Dr. Jones to move his courses, typically taught in person, to online learning, he looked for new ways to incorporate outside material and resources in his courses and ensure students would be engaged in their learning despite working remotely. Kritik became a space that could adapt student interactions in the classroom to the online environment and replicate the peer-sharing element of evaluations. His old material and teaching style relied heavily on face-to-face interactions, which were interrupted when learning transitioned online during the pandemic.

“Kritik has this level of anonymity so they don’t know who they’re evaluating which we like because it removes that assessment bias and it makes them more comfortable.”

Anonymity in the process of peer evaluation removes bias between peers and also allows them to be more open and honest with their evaluations while also ensuring there is accountability.

“[The students’] style really does develop and it becomes a very personal style and a personal voice and that’s the whole point. I think a lot of the students really enjoyed seeing other people’s work because it is especially in this kind of online pandemic space that everyone is isolated in their own bubble and you want to have some sort of authentic connection.”

Even though the process of peer assessment is anonymous, students still know they are connecting with their peers and reading and providing feedback to real people with feelings and a desire to improve their work. Dr. Jones encouraged his students to embrace authentic and meaningful learning and to feel comfortable sharing whatever story they feel comfortable telling. As he shared during the workshop, he was happily surprised and touched by the deeply personal narratives his students shared. As an evaluator receiving assignments with this level of emotional depth and connection, Dr. Jones found the submitted work to be quite moving.

How does Kritik help students interact with each other?

Kritik simulates discussion in classrooms and caters to both students who often engage more openly and those who prefer to listen in the background. Required written evaluations and feedback encourages peers to engage with each other and anonymity empowers confidence to provide honest yet motivational feedback.

“I think providing more ways to engage students is actually beneficial just because we know that every student engages and learns differently so you know they might be quiet in class but they might provide wonderful feedback to their peers through the peer assessment process so I think that's pretty powerful particularly when you're teaching online.”

Dr. Jones noted the flexibility provided by Kritik because of the ability to set deadlines and due dates. While every student engages differently, Kritik encourages students to be responsible with deadlines as well as take part in discussions in a classroom like setting online.

What is the benefit to having many voices and perspectives?

Kritik breaks from the traditional method of grading and teaching. Instead of relying on linear interactions between professors and students, the communication line is opened for peers to share their thoughts and opinions on other students’ work.

Dr. Jones describes a specific assignment where students shared different analyses on marketing initiatives. He found that by using Kritik as a platform to engage students, he and other peers were able to learn from each other as students with different lived experiences were able to connect with each other rather than just their professor.

“By sharing this feedback and building off of each other, it [Kritik] promotes the sense of storytelling and also discovery and creation. I end up learning a lot from other students because we have a very multi-national student body. It’s a totally different world and students bring those kinds of experiences into the classroom.”

This idea of storytelling, discovery and creation is not just limited to creative communication courses like the ones Dr. Jones teaches. Helping students build deeper and more authentic connections with their work is valuable in all courses and disciplines and Kritik empowers students to do just that. By learning through teaching and communicating with one another, new perspectives and voices can be brought in through Kritik to elevate their learning experience.

Dr. Michael Jones
Dr. Michael Jones
Sheridan College
Professor of Communication, Culture and Information Technology

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