Peer Assessment Elevating Student Learning from the Classroom to the Community

We sat down with Professor Sarah Buckallew who teaches nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri on her experience using Kritik and implementing peer assessment in her Community Nutrition Course. 

Prof. Buckallew’s course is unique in that her students apply their learning from the classroom into real world contexts by taking part in community assistance initiatives. Peer learning is used during the classroom portions of the course for students to share their learning and experiences and receive feedback from their peers. 

Students visited a community pantry to assist with their operations and the assignment required them to creatively think of ways to apply their knowledge in nutrition and create recipes from pantry ingredients. Their submission in Kritik would involve the recipe itself and an elevator pitch video introducing their creation.

“I really appreciated how students could see what other students actually did because they don’t typically go out and see what their peers are doing. When they hear that constructive criticism from their peers, it really elevates the feedback that the students are getting and elevates the learning experience for everyone involved.”

This unique way of implementing peer assessment and allowing students to reflect on their learning not only impacts their growth and success in the classroom, the suggestions also give them an opportunity to make a positive impact in the community. The effects and benefits of applying peer feedback were felt far beyond the classroom as students improved over the term.

Why did you implement peer assessment in this course?

“For this specific assignment, they were out doing education at the food pantry. But, for me to grade that, I have to go out and check on them but I’m not there the whole time they’re there and I don’t necessarily see the whole experience.”

Professors often only see the final submission and have limited insight into the process and personalized learning that happens along the way. This is particularly true with assessments like the one Prof. Buckalew implemented, which had students interacting with others in the community. Peer assessment can help create a window into the inner learning and dialogue between students, as Prof. Buckalew, with Kritik, can now see how students are engaging with one another, what type of feedback they are providing and how their work evolves over time.  

Another benefit of peer assessment is reducing the grading burden and making the entire assessment process more streamlined and efficient for the instructor. It’s not just about reducing the amount of time, but a more efficient grading process ensures consistently timely feedback for students, so they have the input they need to improve on their next assessment. 

“I won’t have to go through every student with a fine tooth comb and grade and give feedback in a timely manner. They’ll get that feedback within five days or so. So this helps with mitigating the burden on those sorts of things.”

How do you introduce peer learning to your students?

“We talked about it as a peer evaluation tool and we talked about what it means to give constructive criticism. The process is very easy to introduce to students.”

Even though it may come easy to a particular class, taking the time to introduce it formally, discuss the benefits and provide students with the opportunity to share their thoughts is an important part of creating a positive and open learning environment. 

As Professor Buckallew noted, peer assessment is an opportunity for students to become strong peer and self evaluators. Through the process, the deeper level of thinking involved in “learning by teaching” also means students develop critical thinking and higher-order thinking skills - the same skills that will enable students to make a real difference, in class, in community assistance programs, or wherever they choose to pursue and make their mark. 

Sarah Buckallew
Sarah Buckallew
University of Missouri
Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology

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