The Value of Kritik and Peer Assessment

The Value of Kritik and Peer Assessment

David Wang is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is a leader in the STEM field and has co-authored numerous publications on robotics and image and vision computing. Besides being an expert in the industry, he is an innovator in the educational space and an advocate for pedagogies that are conducive and effective for students' optimal learning experience.

He has been using Kritik in his undergraduate and graduate courses with just under 400 students and approximately 20 students, respectively. Although varying in class sizes, he has experienced significant improvements regarding students' academics and his ability to focus more on research and coaching students instead of grading. By facilitating peer assessment and allowing students to learn by teaching, his students are given opportunities to understand STEM concepts at a deeper level while developing valuable critical soft skills.

Why Kritik is an effective solution
We had a lack of TA resources. We wanted to do more group work, but with 377 students and 15 written submissions, that is over 500 assessments, and I only have 2 TAs. Without Kritik, we just could not have given them that sort of peer assessment. We would have just probably [done] 'spot marking'..have them submit the [peer assessment] assignments but just mark every third one or something like that because it [would] just [be] too overwhelming. Kritik was a huge time saver. There was just no way I could have, with 2 TAs, been able to give back that kind of feedback to the students.

According to Professor Wang, he has saved a week's worth of grading and other administrative tasks using Kritik. This is a significant reduction in workload, which has increased his capacity to be more involved in his community and students' learning.

He has also seen the great benefits of the regular feedback students are providing and receiving. Frequent constructive criticism and feedback have always been difficult to administer in large class sizes, especially in first-year courses. Research shows that one of the obstacles of having larger classes is that mentoring and coaching are limited. As such, students are deprived of regular and quality feedback, which correlates to a suboptimal academic performance (Fenollar et al., 2010). Now that Professor Wang is using Kritik, his students are getting the opportunity to learn by teaching, reflect on their course knowledge and effectively reach the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Lastly, as an innovator in the educational space, Professor Wang sees the advantages of Kritik's gamified peer assessment process. Through gamification, his students are able to enjoy the learning experience while motivating them to become better evaluators which in return, contributes to improved knowledge creation and retention.

Students love feedback
We actually did a survey [and they] were phenomenal. The [students] weren't even neutral, but they liked the fact that they saw their peers' and they got evaluated by their peers. Between 2/3s and 80% on all the feedback we received on all aspects of Kritik were very very positive. In terms of disputes, out of all of those assignments, we only had 0.6% disputes. It meant that students felt the assessments were fair. I also used [Kritik] in a graduate course which was more theoretical and it worked well in the grad course as well [and] it was very interesting. We could nail down who the strongest students were with a couple of assignments based on how they were evaluating and providing feedback.

Whether it be in his undergraduate or graduate course, Professor Wang's students have had a great experience using Kritik. They are able to see the value of peer assessment and how regular positive criticism contributes to their academic and personal growth. Their sentiments correlate with the research that students appreciate receiving feedback significantly more if the turnaround period is shorter and if they come from a non-authoritative figure (Blair et al., 2012). All of which Kritik offers and facilitates.

Q&A: The Pandemic and the Cost of Using Kritik
If the pandemic ended and you returned face-to-face, do you think you'd still continue to use Kritik in a different way or same way to have the same level of engagement?
Absolutely in the same way. I think it was very very beneficial to the students' writing, communication skills, teamwork.. and being able to provide constructive feedback, I just saw so many benefits. I'm teaching engineering professionalism and these are soft skills that they need to take into the workplace. I thought it was just phenomenal.
How did your students find the cost of using Kritik?
The students don't balk at it. It's a reasonable cost. I had to put a little video explaining peer assessment and the value of it in their education. What I really emphasized is that if we had to hire enough TAs to give them the same amount of feedback, their tuition would go up. There's just no doubt about it. Out of the 477 students, I got no pushback. It makes perfect sense why Kritik gives a deeper learning experience. [Students] are evaluating as well as having to communicate [their] evaluation thoughtfully. I hope this quick explanation which is backed up by scholarly research will help you buy into this unique way of learning.

References

Blair, A., Curtis, S., Goodwin, M., & Shields, S. (2012). What feedback do students want? Politics, 33(1), 66-79. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9256.2012.01446.x

Fenollar, P., Román, S., & Cuestas, P. J. (2007). University students' academic performance: An integrative conceptual framework and empirical analysis. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(4), 873-891. doi:10.1348/000709907x189118


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David Wang
David Wang
University of Waterloo
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering