A Guide to Implementing Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Classroom

Education without learning outcomes is meaningless. This is why Benjamin’s Bloom Taxonomy Theory is widely applied in  education to create effective learning outcomes. Today, as educators integrate edtech tools in their classroom, using them with the principles of Bloom’s Taxonomy help them focus on sections of the curriculum for definitive knowledge outcomes with a dynamic learning environment that positively contributes to increased cognitive skills in students.

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

  • What is Bloom's Taxonomy?
  • What is Bloom’s Original Taxonomy?
  • What is the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy?
  • 4 Reasons why Bloom’s Taxonomy is important even today
  • 6 levels of Thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy?
  • 3 Student learning outcomes from Bloom's Taxonomy
  • Using Bloom’s Taxonomy effectively in the classroom

What is Bloom's Taxonomy?

Bloom's taxonomy is a learning, teaching, and educational framework in which each level is dependent on the previous one. Similar to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, each stage of learning is crucial to developing the necessary skill set required to proceed to the next level. 


Bloom's taxonomy may be used by teachers to ask questions and give assignments that are closely related to the learning objectives at each stage of the process. Multiple-choice questions, for example, can help determine a student's basic understanding and how well they remember the topic, whereas asking them to come up with an analogy indicates that they are ready to proceed to the application or analytical stage.

What is Bloom’s Original Taxonomy?

Original Bloom's taxonomy was developed in the 1940s by Benjamin Bloom and his associates Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl to classify educational goals into different categories that can better assess the students’ performance.


With multiple revisions to the original taxonomy, Bloom and his colleagues published the final version in 1956 as the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. While it was designed to help with student evaluation at first, it rapidly evolved into a tool for teachers to plan their curriculum, define explicit learning objectives, and create classroom activities. It has been developed for usage in K–12 schools, colleges, and universities.

What is the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy?

David Krathwohl and co-editor Lorin Anderson offered a version of the 1956 hierarchy in 2001, with extras from cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, educational researchers, and testing and assessment experts. The revised Bloom’s Taxonomy took shape with more dynamic concepts as opposed to the original version that only focused on a unilateral objective. By replacing nouns with verbs, students were given a clearer objective to work with and set expectations.

The revised Taxonomy changes the two last Bloom's taxonomy learning stages, Synthesis/Evaluation, to make them more apparent and emphasize on application of  knowledge, which is the primary objective of effective learning. Bloom's updated taxonomy further divides the cognitive domain, which includes comprehension, into four distinct categories that include factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive. 

4 Reasons why Bloom’s Taxonomy is important even today

Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of educational objectives has been a beneficiary heuristic for educators to comprehend the varying degrees of cognitive, psychomotor, and emotional demands that are set up as learning outcomes for students. It also aids in matching the right assessment tools and strategies with the correct level’s objective.

1. Enhances Academic performance

Using Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy as a guide, Kritik offers a gamified online peer assessment tool that allows students to earn Kritik points and demonstrate their abilities as an peer evaluator. The score gets calculated by comparing how well you evaluated your peers' work to how the other students evaluated the exact project. It was found that after conducting 5-6 activities on Kritik, students witnessed an increase in their overall evaluation score. The different points of view shared by their peers also enabled them to gather deeper insights, knowledge, and performance.

2. Develop Higher-order thinking skills

Developing higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) during higher education is critical to excel in the workplace. Research suggests that critical thinking  is among the top five skills that employers look for when hiring freshers 1(Campbell, 2022). With the application of Bloom's Taxonomy, the categorization of  educational objectives promotes HOTS in students that allows educators to assess learning outcomes on a regular basis, encouraging students to continuously reflect on their progress. 

3. Strengthen meta-cognitive skills

Bloom's taxonomy can help educators to become more student-centered in their approach by clearly defining what they want students to know and be able to accomplish. With every progressive level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the student gets a chance to review their strengths and weaknesses and adjust their practices to achieve improved levels of learning outcomes. The use of metacognition in the classroom enables students to  engage with the course content in meaningful ways.

4. Essential application for students

The Bloom’s Taxonomy assists in determining the meanings of words, phrases, and idioms used in the paragraph through application and comprehension. It also aids in assessing the passage and its ideas and gathering facts, memorizing them via comprehending and remembering.

See how Dr. Lucian Lucia from NC State University was able to leverage peer assessment to develop higher-order thinking. 

6 levels of Thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy

The taxonomy is commonly shown as a pyramid to emphasize the importance of information to students. Bloom's framework must be followed in order as a taxonomy; learners must begin with knowledge and master that level. Furthermore, the students aim is to reach the top level called Create where they can create new or original work in similar ways.

1. Remember: Recall facts and Basic Concepts

Everything a student has learnt in the classroom, both in theory and in practice, is called knowledge. It is the basic parameter where students are asked to learn and memorize facts. As one of the most crucial aspects of learning, students must remember what they have learnt. Educators can use verbs like define, describe, identify, label, list, outline, recall, and reproduce to effectively measure success in this stage.

2. Understand: Explain Ideas or Concepts

The level of comprehension is indicated by understanding. Upon getting a grasp of the topic, students are required to explain the concepts in their own words. How they interpret the learnings is only worthwhile if the student is able to make sense of it. The verbs that can be used here are defend, explain, generalize, paraphrase, summarize and translate.

3. Apply: Use information in New Situations

By taking the concept and applying it successfully to real world scenarios is how students can master this level.For example, if a student learns to write in English and excels at it, they should be able to apply for a visa for their non-English speaking parents who wish to travel to Canada. In this stage, educators can use verbs like apply, demonstrate, predict, show, solve or use.

4. Analyze: Draw Connections among Ideas

At this stage, students must be able to draw parallels, use logical deductions to analyze arguments, and question the relevance of facts presented to them. The important verbs in this level are analyze, break down, compare, contrast, differentiate, deconstruct, and infer.

5. Evaluate: Justify a Stand or Decision

The evaluation stage is when the student is able to make an educated statement of what they have learnt, applied and analyzed in the first 4 stages. Their stand could include a solution to the problem or justify an argument with facts. As simple as it may appear, the learner must be appropriately prepared and have mastered extensive information to attain this level. Key verbs to utilize at this stage are appraise, conclude, critique, evaluate, support, and summarize.

6. Create: Produce New or Original Work

This is the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy where the student should be able to fully demonstrate the application of what they have learnt and create something original. This could include building something based on the principles that they learnt, improving processes to make it more efficient or designing a product. Educators can use verbs like categorize, combine, compile, devise, design, generate, modify, and write.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy?

3 Student learning outcomes from Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy provides a framework for the assessment of student learning. The system comprises different domains and each domain has several sub-domains. Each of which has its own specific descriptors. The descriptors provide a way to measure student understanding and can be used to identify areas in which students are progressing or where they need improvement.

1. Cognitive domain in Bloom’s Taxonomy

The cognitive domain focuses on mental abilities such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and information acquisition. It was the first domain formed by Bloom's initial research group. The cognitive hierarchy ranges from basic memorizing to inventing something new based on previously learned information. Learners go through the ranking in this domain, starting with "remember" and ending with "make." 

2. Affective domain in Bloom’s Taxonomy

The affective domain is concerned with learners' attitudes, values, interests, and appreciation. Receiving and listening to information is the first step in the hierarchy, leading its way towards characterization or internalizing values and consistently acting on them. It was designed to help students understand their own beliefs and how they have evolved.

3. Psychomotor domain in Bloom’s taxonomy

Learners' capacity to physically complete activities and perform movement and skills get referred to as the psychomotor domain. There are multiple variants with various hierarchies - the examples given are from Harrow's (1972) psychomotor domain theory 2(Thomas, 2004). Reflexes and fundamental movement are at the bottom of the scale, followed by non-discursive communication and meaningfully expressive action.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy effectively in the classroom

Educators continue to refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy in their classroom even today as they see the value of progressively setting objectives that cater to each level of the students’ learning journey. Let us look at the different ways educators can use Bloom’s Taxonomy effectively in their classroom:

  • Focusing on developing the curriculum to ensure students demonstrate the appropriate cognitive skills in each task and exam before moving on to the next.
  • Setting clear, simple, and quantifiable learning outcomes. Using Bloom’s taxonomy of measurable verbs, will allow students to respond to queries and perform activities based on the objective of the level. For example, questions that require students to compare, discuss, and forecast, will aid their fundamental comprehension of a project. verbs like explore and relate indicate that they have moved on to the analysis phase.
  • Students must not be viewed as passive learners in the classroom. Instead, they must be urged to challenge themselves to memorize facts or even make a list of essential knowledge they learned that day after the lesson. Using Bloom's taxonomy in Math, educators could engage the class in discussions to break down the problem, making analogies, and looking at how a subject could connect to students' daily lives.
  • Bloom's Taxonomy can also be used to classify assignments and exams. Mid-term reviews often contain details and lectures understood from the bottom of the pyramid in the Remember, Understand and Apply stage.
  • When it comes to final examinations, Bloom's Taxonomy critical thinking may get used in measuring learning at the top of the pyramid, which includes Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. Students apply what they've learned in class to real-life situations, offer educated opinions and defend them, and explore additional issues that need to be answered, including presenting examples.

Provide an engaged classroom experience with Kritik!

Applying the principles of Bloom’s taxonomy in the classroom enables students to immerse themselves in the learning process at every level and reflect on what they have learnt. As a peer evaluation tool, Kritik does the same with the three stages of assessment (Creation, Evaluation and Feedback) giving students an opportunity to learn from their peers, adapt and improve their work and gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

Schedule a demo with our team today to implement peer assessment in your classroom.

5 Activity Types to Increase Student Engagement in Online Classes

In the modern world of education, educators have to constantly innovate and look for ways to create an engaging learning experience. Coming up with engaging learning activities can be time-consuming, but figuring out how to redesign traditional classroom activities to translate into an online or hybrid setting is even more challenging. A great way to enrich your current activities and increase engagement outside of the classroom is to incorporate peer-to-peer learning.

In this blog, we will be taking you through learning activities that can be facilitated in an online classroom using peer assessment.

5 learning activities for online classrooms

There are many learning strategies to make online classrooms more engaging. Adopting these techniques with peer assessment can help build classroom community and allow students to broaden their perspective on a subject.

1. ePortfolios

An ePortfolio is a digital collection of a student's school or course-related work that is meant to showcase learning over time. This enables students to critically assess themselves, reflect, and make connections between their work that helps them become self-motivated autonomous learners. Along with positively contributing to their academic performance 3(Sharma et al., 2016), students can also use their ePortfolio as an addition to their resume as it showcases their skills and how they developed them. 

When ePortfolio activities are done on Kritik, students get the added benefit of peer review in combination with self-reflection, which has been shown to result in deeper learning 2(JISC, n.d.).

2. Elevator Pitches

Elevator pitches are a simple yet engaging way to help students become better communicators. Students learn how to be concise and persuasive, giving them an opportunity to build their confidence and ease their nervousness when delivering elevator pitches in real-world situations. Understanding how to make an effective elevator pitch is a useful skill that every student should know as it helps with networking and in making good impressions. 

With Kritik, students can upload their video submissions and get insights into their peers’ styles to improve their own elevator pitch. Here’s how Dr. Nadia Basir from University of Waterloo used Kritik to run this activity in their entrepreneurship courses

"I use Kritik for students to evaluate their peers when it comes to pitching their businesses…In other years, students were only getting feedback from me, and students love using Kritik because they receive so much personalized feedback." - Dr. Nada Basir 

3. Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning activity that gives students the opportunity to specialize in one aspect of a topic and teach it to their peers. Here’s how you can set up a Jigsaw activity:

  1. Choose a topic that can be divided into multiple segments. There can be as little as 2 segments up to a recommended maximum of 5 or 6.

For example, when learning about the composition of blood, the topic can be divided into: 

  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells
  • Platelets
  • Plasma
  1. Assign students into “home groups” the same size as the number of segments. Each student from the home group will then choose or be assigned a specific aspect to become an “expert” in.
  2. Students will break out of their home groups and form groups with peers that share the same segment as them, creating an “expert group”. Expert groups can work collaboratively to do research, hold discussions, and develop their topic together.
  3. Once each student has gathered enough information on their assigned segment, they return to their “home group” and teach their group members about their topic. 
Jigsaw method steps
Jigsaw Method Steps

To facilitate this activity online, instructors can utilize Kritik's group features and have their students upload videos of themselves teaching a topic. This also allows students to get feedback on the content they’ve gathered and their presentation skills. Professor. Heidi Engelhardt from the University of Waterloo conducted a variation of the Jigsaw activity on Kritik, that not only helped with content retention and comprehension but also taught students active listening and verbal communication skills.

4. Roleplays

Roleplays are a great way for students to apply and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a concept. They help prepare students for real world scenarios and are very versatile which allows them to be applied in a large variety of courses. For example, Dr. Ellen Pullins from the University of Toledo uses Kritik in their sales class to facilitate a sales call roleplay. Another great example is Professor. Denice Mendenhall who does patient roleplays in their nursing course on Kritik. Depending on the type of roleplay done, it can teach students important communication skills such as persuasion, negotiation, debate, as well as, teamwork, problem-solving, and empathy.

"The only way to practice interpersonal skills is to have an interpersonal conversation. That’s really where Kritik allowed us to expand our horizons." - Dr. Ellen Pullins

5. Concept mapping

Concept maps are visual depictions of information and can take various forms, such as mind maps, Venn diagrams, flow charts, and tables. Being versatile and easy to make, concept maps come in many forms, and because there are so many options it allows students to be creative and personalize it to create connections between the content that they learn. This form of active learning has proven to be very beneficial as studies have found that those who did concept mapping “performed considerably better in improvement and retention” 1(Collins & Nyenhuis, 2020). 

When concept mapping activities are peer reviewed, students gain the perspective of their peers and realize connections between the course content that they have not considered.

Get creative in the classroom with Kritik!

Online learning activities can be just as engaging as in-person ones, opening a plethora of opportunities to innovate and reimagine your course. Kritik users enjoy the benefit of peer assessment which provides a multitude of benefits in the classroom. For tips on implementing these activities in your classroom, book a demo or a meeting with our instructional designer!

Engaging Students in a Hybrid Learning Environment

Within the last year, the emergence of hybrid learning has become increasingly more important for colleges and universities to adopt. There has been an increased desire by educational stakeholders to implement a multifaceted learning environment for students. Due to these new blended learning preferences, many institutions are now allowing students to access their learning both remotely and in person. Though many great strides have been made to make this model accessible for students, this framework can pose concerns and challenges to many instructors at the higher education level. 

What's the issue at hand?

Across the web, you may see several sources outlining the benefits of hybrid learning including increases in collaborative learning, quality of faculty-to-student interactions, and the ability for students to be able to better facilitate their learning. The real question is how do instructors manage to effectively teach and cater to both the online and in-person aspects of hybrid learning? We have outlined the most beneficial practices instructors can adopt to ensure the most successful blended learning environment for students to excel.

Flexible Learning Environments

The objective of hybrid learning varies across different disciplines, courses, and instructors which is why it should be embraced as a flexible approach to teaching. This approach should be used in a way that complements existing learning in order to achieve the most desirable course outcomes and engagement rates. 

A learning guide published by Ryerson University, states that there are several aspects of creating a flexible learning environment including:

  • Flexible teaching 
  • Flexible learning methods
  • Flexible content
  • Flexible access

They have found that a flexible learning environment includes a blend of what an individual learner needs and the requirements of a subject. Within the progression of learning, the content should reflect both of these two aspects (Schwartz, et al., 2019). A great way to achieve this is by breaking down course material into modules so students can easily take what they need to understand the content. The accessibility of being able to choose which learning format works best for your students is also a huge factor to consider when developing a flexible learning space. Each student may choose a different combination as seen in the survey published by The Digital Learning Pulse by Cengage where they found that,

“68 percent [of students], indicated they would be interested in taking courses offering a combination of in-person and online instruction” (McKenzie, 2021).

See the breakdown of the results of the survey here:

With Kritik’s unique versatility, our experienced instructional designers can help guide instructors through the process of creating a blended learning environment that strengthens student learning, while creating a smooth teaching format for your curriculum. 

Apply real-world context to motivate and engage students

Integrating relevant skills within your course content that will bring your students success in and beyond the classroom can be essential in stimulating student engagement. You want to promote these teachable skills to students so that they understand that what they’re learning can also benefit them in their futures.

As an instructor with a hybrid learning environment, you can outline the skills students will need to develop for their future careers and how exactly your assignments will help them achieve them. For example, Kritik promotes the development of critical thinking. In a survey done in 2018 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, they found that, 99.2% of employers find that critical thinking skills are essential for students to develop before they graduate (National Association of Colleges and Employers). When introducing the use of Kritik in the classroom, not only should you describe the benefits of course learning but you should highlight the other skills students will gain from being able to practice meaningful evaluations. By connecting your course material with real-world skill development, students will see the value within their learning and motivate themselves to succeed. 

Encourage inquiry and exploration within activities

A recent Deloitte report, states that

Nearly 80 percent of undergraduate students said their online courses lacked the engagement of in-person classes (Selingo, et al., n.d.).

Fostering an engaging environment not only increases participation rates but can also trigger self-sufficient motivation among students. With Kritik, students are able to explore and inquire about several different aspects within one single assignment. The ability to have your work evaluated by several students while exploring your peers’ work within the classroom strengthens a deeper level of engagement beyond the traditional classroom. The traditional approach of submitting an assignment to one set of eyes only allows students to experience a one-way approach to learning, rather than encountering several different levels of evaluation and feedback. The integration of online platforms like Kritik, allows instructors to build an integrative blend of both in-person and online learning.


As we shift back to in-person learning, more and more institutions have discovered an increased desire for a hybrid learning environment. Now more than ever institutions are looking for effective ways to engage their students through this format and to find the ability to create an environment where both students and instructors can effectively communicate with their fellow peers. Kritik provides opportunities for this new educational landscape by ensuring flexible learning environments, promotion of the real-world application of skills, and encourages student exploration all while promoting student engagement. The practice of offering a diversified learning format can reinforce learning concepts and engage students in their new hybrid learning environment.

Learn how to set up your hybrid learning environment to encourage student engagement today by scheduling a demo with Kritik.

The role of peer evaluation in competency-based learning

In 2019, the National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education found that out of 602 institution respondents, 74% reported being in the process of adopting CBE or being interested in CBE.

What is competency-based learning?

Competency-based learning (CBL) is a results-driven learning system in which students progress onto the next “level” by mastering competencies (Henri et al., 2017). CBL has gained the interest of many higher education institutions as it allows students to learn at an individualized pace, and develop the necessary skills for their academic or professional careers before advancing to the next level.

Barriers to Competency-Based Learning:

Despite the proven benefits of competency-based education, institutions have struggled to fully adopt it. The barriers to CBL mainly come down to the resources required, and without the aid from technology like Kritik, it can be challenging to implement, particularly for mid to large class sizes. 

There are institutions that have fully adopted CBL or are taking the steps to implement full CBL programs. Two such examples are the University of Wisconsin and Southern New Hampshire University. 

Universities Recognized for Implementing Competency-Based Learning:

The University of Wisconsin system is piloting a CBL program called UW Flexible Option, or UW Flex, in which professionals evaluate students’ skills and masteries over any given amount of time (University of Wisconsin, 2021). CBL programs are designed to allow students to direct their own learning pace as they achieve masteries to complete their programs, instead of traditionally measuring academic success through grades and credits earned (Fain, 2019). Moreover, learning is non-semestered, so students are not required to begin their studies at the beginning of the term and can complete assessments in a flexible learning environment (University of Wisconsin, 2021).

UW-Milwaukee’s Bachelor of Nursing Flex Option has benefitted many students who want to advance their nursing education and careers. A study in 2017 revealed that slightly more than 44 percent of nurses working in Wisconsin did not possess more than a two-year degree, and were looking to receive more education and training without pausing their careers (Lumina Foundation, 2017). In this case, the Nursing Flex Option suited nurse Mary Olukoton, who comments that a CBL-based course has given her much more academic independence:

“I definitely like setting my own pace. I’m the type of student who likes to go to class prepared, and it’s frustrating when you get to class and have to work at the pace of other students who aren’t prepared” (Lumina Foundation, 2017).

Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America has also fully adopted competency-based education. As the university explains, they took this step to ensure academic success focused on measuring learning rather than measuring time or credits. More specifically, rather than say “so many hours equals a course, and so many courses equals a degree,” competencies and learning measure a student's progress in their education journey.

While the University of Wisconsin and Southern New Hampshire University have both taken significant steps to implement CBL, many institutions are looking for solutions to introduce competency-based learning pedagogy in ways that can be implemented quickly without increasing their overall workload.

Kritik team members work directly with departments and individual instructors to implement peer learning in a way that reduces the grading burden and allows more time for coaching and mentoring. In a three step onboarding process, the Kritik team ensures professors are not only comfortable with the platform, but also receive the ongoing support they need to have immediate success with peer learning. 

Why the focus on competencies? How can we assess them?

A competency is the capacity to apply skills, knowledge, or abilities to a real-world situation. If a competency is mastered, the student has knowledge or skills and has demonstrated that they know how to use it. For employers, or future career aspirations, competencies are critical to ensuring what is learned in school is relevant and can be applied the real-world context. 

For assessment, competency-based models rely on measurement assessment. 

“If a proposed competency cannot be described unambiguously and subsequently measured, it probably is not a competency. Given these fundamental attributes, all parties to the learning process—faculty, external experts, administrators, and students—should be able to understand with clarity the outcomes of the learning experience” (Voorhees, 2001).

Assessments can take the form of tests, projects and other activities, but in any case, instructors need to clearly communicate to the students the competencies to be taught and assessed in order to ensure students have a clear roadmap for success (Henri et. al, 2017). The added flexibility of CBL allows for the additional implementation of pedagogical strategies including project-based learning, group-based learning, team-based learning and peer-learning. 

Peer assessment is an effective strategy to implement competency-based learning. Students are able to focus on achieving competencies outlined by clear rubrics and objectives set out at the beginning, and then provide and receive feedback based on their competencies. 

What role does peer evaluation play in competency-based learning?

Did you know that increased peer assessment methods have a direct, positive impact on student performance and competency development? Increased student engagement and reflection directly influences the quality of feedback and develops competence as students actively learn and apply coursework (Ibarra-Sáiz et al., 2020).

Peer assessment can enhance coursework and help students develop necessary knowledge and skills for the future. Evaluation and feedback through peer assessment will help students gain greater confidence in their judgment while developing a deeper understanding of course content. 

A 2020 study examines how peer assessment practices can help facilitate effective competency-based learning in undergraduate courses. Peer assessment is a powerful tool to develop competencies by:

Allowing students to gain a better understanding of course expectations and materials:

Students will develop and demonstrate competencies through evaluation and feedback. This process encourages active learning as students apply their knowledge of the course to evaluate their peers’ work. Furthermore, when they provide feedback on others’ evaluations, they are able to reflect on their own assignment and gain a new perspective on how to improve their work. When students are motivated to provide quality, constructive evaluations and feedback, they positively contribute to their own and their peers’ competency development (Ibarra-Sáiz et al., 2020).

Allowing students to develop problem-solving skills by applying their knowledge in contextual situations:

By developing competency in the course, students are better equipped to solve problems and navigate situations that could arise in the relevant academic or professional environment. Peer assessment can also introduce new ideas or ways to communicate ideas, and present a new lens of understanding of course work.

Promoting critical thinking and effective communication in assignments:

The study also found that students who critically assessed their peers’ assignments and were open to improving their own work developed confidence in their judgement and contributed to more effective learning in the classroom (Ibarra-Sáiz et al., 2020). Peer assessment helps facilitate meaningful discussions between students, and enables them to critically think about their own work and help others. Feedback increases the capacity and quality of learning (Hounsell, 2007).

The study’s findings conclude that students could effectively demonstrate competencies in their course through peer assessment.

Peer assessment creates a dynamic learning environment. With students acting as evaluators, teachers are able to act as facilitators and mentors, guiding discussions and evaluations to elevate learning and provide specific guidance along the way. 

Learn more about the benefits of peer assessment here.

How can Kritik help facilitate competency-based learning with peer assessment?

Kritik empowers professors to implement competency-based learning strategies seamlessly into their course while simultaneously allowing for a more efficient, manageable grading and administration process. 

There is a recent shift from teacher-centered education to learner-centered education, and at the same time, a shift from content-centered curricula to competence-centered curricula. It is top of mind for education research and institutions to commit to evolving in order to ensure students receive a learning experience that will prepare them most effectively for their future. That being said, competency-based education for all its benefits - retention and recruitment, addressing diverse student needs and industry needs, and providing a clear assessment structure to students - has struggled to be widely adopted institution-wide. However, with Kritik, CBL is not only possible, but also more accessible than ever. 

Kritik implements CBL through three stages of peer learning: Create Stage, Evaluate Stage, and Feedback Stage. Engaging students in different creative and reflective stages facilitates active learning and helps them gain a better understanding of course material. Peer assessment allows students to critically assess their own work, while evaluating their peers’ and providing meaningful feedback.

In the Evaluate stage, students follow a rubric and are expected to justify the grade they provided to their peers. Students learn to be accountable for their learning and to think deeper as they explain their thought process behind the evaluations.

In the Feedback stage, students respond to and rate the evaluations they’ve received based on how critical and motivational they are (Levels 1-4). If either Critical or Motivational is rated Level 1 or 4, the student must justify their feedback. This encourages further reflection and discussion before the activity is graded and finalized by the instructor! This cycle of evaluation encourages students to actively reflect on their own work and apply course concepts and knowledge while evaluating others’ work.

For more insights on peer assessment, we have some helpful articles about effectively facilitating peer assessment and engaging students with peer assessment.

Moreover, Kritik allows you to create calibration activities, which allow you to measure how similar students grade to you. This will develop students’ competence in evaluation, as they use your rubric to evaluate sample creations and understand your course expectations. The more similar they grade like you in the calibration activity, the higher the students’ overall grading power; this will impact other students’ scores during the evaluation stage.

The calibration feature ultimately reduces grading time, as students’ grading powers will help you grade other students’ work. Not only do students’ work get evaluated by multiple persons, but these evaluations are also calibrated similarly to how you would grade them.

In Conclusion

There is great enthusiasm by institutions for competency-based learning as a way to improve student engagement, increase focus on critical thinking and higher order thinking skills and better prepare students for meaningful careers post graduation. At the same time, the resources required to implement CBL have posed challenges. Peer learning is a solution that addresses these challenges allowing professors and students to realize the benefits of CBL without the growing pains or any increases in resources or time. 

Benefits and Challenges of Asynchronous Learning

What is asynchronous learning?

Asynchronous learning is a teaching methodology whereby learning occurs independently and in different times and spaces. Asynchronous learning often takes place in online learning environments where the instructor sets up a learning path for students to engage with and proceed through  at their own pace.

What is synchronous learning?

Synchronous learning is learning that occurs for students at the same time and place via live online meetings. This means that students sign in to a virtual learning environment at the same time to engage with one another, and follow the learning path together and with guidance from the instructor.

Asynchronous vs. synchronous learning:

The discussion around asynchronous and synchronous learning has been accelerated in recent years. New technology and expanded internet access and made learning more accessible than ever before. Students now have an opportunity to sign in to free learning websites to expand their knowledge or to increase their understanding of a particular school topic. Programs and courses have also emerged to supplement or expand in-class learning. For example, students in university may decide to take online courses along with their in-person learning to get exposure to topics beyond their discipline or to speed up their academic progress. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many academic institutions to move to completely remote learning causing schools and professors to look at how they could leverage programs and tools for asynchronous and synchronous learning so that learning could continue at a high level despite students being away from school.

There is a misconception that asynchronous learning requires less effort and strategy to engage students. As Brown and Voltz (2011) explain, “Asynchronous e-learning design requires an understanding of educational pedagogies, multimedia content, resource publication, electronic technologies, and international web standards”. That being said, by making a deliberate effort to address students’ unique learning needs and incorporating engaging and meaningful opportunities for students to engage with one another and course content, asynchronous E-learning can be a rewarding learning experience. Having dynamism in the classroom prepares the students with the transferable skills necessary to be successful, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Asynchronous learning activities:

Professors have adopted creative approaches to engage students through asynchronous learning. Here are a few ways asynchronous learning can be implemented:

  • Reading articles, or watching pre-recorded lectures, or videos and completing writing assignments
  • Independent research projects
  • Online class discussions via course discussion boards
  • Learning activities, including quizzes, tests, and interactive games
  • Online peer assessment 

Challenges of asynchronous learning (and how to address them):

No immediate in-class feedback

Without live lectures or in-person teaching, students miss the scheduled time to engage with course material and ask questions on the spot. By not having this live in-class interaction, students may not feel compelled  to ask questions, or they miss  hearing the teacher respond to the questions of their classmates. In the end, students are not receiving enough feedback to improve their quality of work.

Address this challenge by providing other means for students to receive immediate feedback, such as through peer assessment. Additionally, ensure students have outlets and regular opportunities to ask questions and clarify their understanding and make sure students have exposure to the questions raised by their peers. Online discussion boards or class communities are another way students can share their perspectives and the teacher can respond in the group when questions arise. 

Lack of personal interactions

Asynchronous learning that is completely independent means students won’t have an opportunity to learn from their peers and interact with them. Peer learning, when students learn from each other, is a powerful way to enhance student learning. Without opportunities to engage in peer learning and interact with their classmates, students may be unmotivated or disengaged from their learning. Peer-to-peer learning has shown stellar outcomes to student mental health, particularly through the pandemic.

Address this challenge by providing opportunities for students to work together and share in their learning with one another. This can mean having students complete an activity in groups, have students discuss their learning, or a topic covered in a course, or engaging in peer assessment to provide feedback on one another’s work.

Students must be able to work independently

Asynchronous online learning will be well received by students who prefer to work independently and at their own pace. However, for students who require more guidance, structure and interactions, it can be challenging to keep them motivated.

Address this challenge by providing guidelines and checkpoints to ensure students who require structure are supported. Students who are able to work well independently will also appreciate the checkpoints as a way to get feedback and improve their work. These checkpoints may be referred to as staged learning, or scaffolded learning. 

Advantages of asynchronous learning

“By logging on at a self-determined time of readiness, learners also will be more focused on task-specific learning behaviour; moreover, because interactions within the group are not in real time, students have the opportunity to absorb and consider information before responding. This type of experiential learning leads to more effective learning” (Li, Greenberg, & Nicholls, 2007). 

Learn at your own pace

With asynchronous online learning, students are able to learn at their own pace. For many students this may be prioritizing commitments, and completing their studies around other schedules. Students often have responsibilities beyond their academics, including jobs, family obligations and caretaking of family members. Learning asynchronously, supports individuals given the complexities of life.

Provide an accessible form of learning

The fact that asynchronous learning can be done at any time and from any location, internet connection permitting, means it is a more accessible form of learning than in-person, or even synchronous live learning. Students can be halfway around the world taking a course with students in different time zones. Additionally, as previously mentioned, students with other life commitments can be accommodated through asynchronous learning. With asynchronous learning, learning can take place at the convenient time for the individual students (Marble et al., 2016).

Reduce social barriers

By providing learners with an opportunity to learn at their own pace while ensuring greater accessibility, educators and institutions reduce social barriers, or social determinants. Social determinants are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, learn, work and age. Asynchronous learning meets the student where and when it is most convenient for them. Allowing for student autonomy and flexibility in course and assessment delivery creates a more fair and equitable learning environment.


Understanding the benefits and challenges of asynchronous learning helps to effectively incorporate it into future online teaching plans. There's no denying that asynchronous learning can be beneficial, but there are constraints to consider before adopting any asynchronous learning strategies.

Asynchronous remote learning is a powerful approach for making learning resources more accessible, however, for some students, that lack of interactivity is a problem. There are ways to address these challenges within your class including interactive learning activities, peer learning and regular check ins.  Additionally, asynchronous e-learning resources, without immediate instructor or technical support, must be self-explanatory in nature and intuitive to use (Sinclair et. al, 2017).

Technology, such as Kritik, can make asynchronous learning a seamless experience for professor and student alike, while building students’ critical thinking and soft skills. Not only that, but “when educators complement in-class time with asynchronous learning opportunities, they can create a community-focused collaborative space for personalized learning experiences” (Stafford, 2011). When asynchronous learning is used in combination with synchronous classes, such as with peer assessment through Kritik, professors can enable more meaningful and engaging discussions and class time interactions. 

Overcoming Barriers to Competency-Based Learning

What is competency-based learning?

Competency-based learning (CBL) is a learning system designed to teach and reinforce specific competencies. With this system, students have the opportunity to master complex and transferable skills by employing practical assessment techniques (Evans et al., 2021). 

Competency-based learning in practice:

Professors out of Westminster College in the United States conducted a study to understand the impact of competency-based education as a pedagogical tool for student learning. The study found that competency-based learning led to increased student engagement with course material, cohort collaboration, ownership within assessments, and overall student attendance, compared to the traditional teaching model (Simonds et al., 2017). 

While the benefits of competency-based learning are understood, CBL is a relatively new development in higher education. Introducing new teaching methods is not without its challenges. However, through a staged and pragmatic approach, professors can implement competency-based learning, thus encouraging students to take greater ownership over their academic success. 

Motivation and adoption of competency-based learning

The 2019 National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education (NSPCBE), an annual, web-based survey of postsecondary institutions in the United States, provides insights into the motivations and adoption of competency-based learning. Of the 602 institutions included in the study, 51% reported being in the process of adopting CBL, 23% reported being interested in CBL but hadn’t started adopting. Change happens slowly.

Of institutions reported to having a program or being in the process of adopting a program of CBL, the primary motivations for the implementation were: expanding access for nontraditional students (57%), the desire to improve learning outcomes (54%) and responding to workforce needs (53%). 

Despite strong interest by professors and institutions, competency-based education adoption is slower than expected. There was minimal change in adoption levels between 2018 and 2019, with some institutions decreasing their use of CBL. The survey suggests the slow growth of CBL could be due to barriers to implementation (American Institutes for Research, 2019).

By overcoming the following barriers, professors can improve student engagement, help students improve the retention and application of course material, and build transferable skills.

Barriers to competency-based learning 

1. Lack of clarity on how to create competency-based goals

Providing clear targets for skill development and competency-based assessment is one of the best ways to set students up for success with competency-based learning (Vorhees, 2001). Professors should create tangible targets coinciding with skill objectives (Simonds et al., 2017). The targets should be general enough to have applicability in various assessment settings while also reflecting the course material and desired learning outcomes (Evans et al., 2021). One way teachers can achieve this is through rubrics that encourage critical thinking and develop higher-order thinking skills

Customizable rubric layout in Kritik

Students use a rubric to assess the feedback provided by their peers

2. Time and resources  

There is an adjustment period associated with introducing a new method of student assessment. Administrators, instructors and teaching assistants need to work together to incorporate competency-based learning. Professors can communicate transparently with students explaining the strength of CBL and what they hope the students will gain. With practice, consistency and transparency, CBL will become a natural part of the student and professor experience.

3. Shifting from a traditional teaching style

Competency-based learning represents a shift from the traditional, modular education approach. The change may seem daunting to many professors. The traditional education structure is often inflexible and not well suited to meet the diverse needs of students (Voorhees, 2001). Taking a staged approach to competency-based learning, for example, using it for one activity in one class, can be an effective way to get started. One way to incorporate practical assessment techniques as part of CBL is through Active learning. Active learning is the idea that students should actively apply course concepts while in class, rather than just listening to a traditional lecture and taking notes.

How to Effectively Implement Competency-Based Learning

Peer assessment is an effective way to implement competency-based learning for instructors at all levels, course sizes and lengths (Ibarra-Sáiz et al., 2020). Peer assessment enables social learning, where students share their perspectives and learn through the act of teaching. It also means each student can receive numerous points of feedback before the final submission. Each student’s learning journey will take a different path depending on the student’s needs and progress identified through peer assessment. Kritik makes implementing peer evaluation easy

Kritik enables social learning, for example, by spotlighting strong student exemplars

Through the Kritik platform, professors provide clear objective outlines through rubrics, either created from scratch or selected from Kritik’s repository of customizable rubrics. Establishing competency-based rubrics for each task is a measurable and tangible way to present the goals of an activity aligned with curriculum requirements to students, TAs and administrators alike. 

Once the professor sets up the assignment or activity criteria, Kritik enables peer assessment, putting students in the driver’s seat of their learning. Students learn how to provide and receive feedback, working in stages to iterate and improve their work. In addition to the benefits to student learning, peer assessment saves professors’ time while increasing the amount of feedback each student receives. 

Students assess feedback based on how motivational and critical it is

The three-stage assessment schedule in Kritik

“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” - David Wong, University of Waterloo Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

By embracing competency-based learning through peer assessment, students will play an active role in the learning process while developing transferable skills, beneficial in the classroom and beyond.   

Student presenting information

Effective Academic Presentation Tips Your Students Need to Know

Delivering information in a manner that is clear, concise and insightful while providing an audience with great learning opportunities are important components for successful presentations. Today, presentation skills are a basic requirement of every field, and students must practise and aim for mastery in preparation for the workplace. It is integral to students’ academic and career success to learn how to properly present and demonstrate their knowledge while ensuring that their peers are well engaged in the material. Apart from solely providing information, presentations should stimulate interactive learning through a pleasing audio and visual experience for the audience. 

Having students do presentations on a regular basis is an effective way of learning by teaching which is proven to improve knowledge retention and overall comprehension. Not only that, but students get to practice their research, communication and leadership skills. Furthermore, presentations enable students to develop their creativity by implementing innovative ways of adding value to their peers’ education in a way that captures their attention and interests. 

Presentations provide learning benefits to both the presenter and the audience. In order to extrapolate these benefits, the experience must be authentic and well-delivered. This blog post will show you how to do just that!

Pro Tips for Effective Academic Presentation

  • Stay passionate to connect with your audience 
  • Focus on your main topic
  • Maintain eye contact 
  • Use your voice creatively
  • Keep a fluent body language 
  • Stay calm and confident
  • Do not read from your slides
  • Maintain your time limit while presenting [1]

Presentation Skills Students can Acquire and Develop

  • Using PowerPoint Effectively

Students must learn how to use PowerPoint presentations to create a visual representation of the information that is being shared with the rest of the group. Being well-versed in the software allows for more impactful information delivery. Students can add high-quality images, diagrams and highlight the important elements of their research in bullet points. This allows students to present both qualitative and quantitative information in a digestible manner. [1] 

  • Adapting to your Audience

One of the most common mistakes many presenters make is to under or overestimate their target audience. Students should thoroughly research their audience to understand where they stand and draft an engaging presentation accordingly. Presenters must question themselves about what their audience may already be aware of and what new information can the presenter share with them. To eliminate confusion, conducting a brief question and answer session where the presenter can address all the points of concern throughout the presentation can be helpful to keep everyone on the same page and allow the audience to absorb the content more thoroughly.  

  • Time Management 

Most academic presentations have a specified time allotted for each student to showcase his/her work. Students must prepare the material for their presentation, keeping it relevant to the time they have been given. If you're writing your presentation out, 2 minutes per double-spaced page is a good rule of thumb to follow. Make sure you don’t have over 7 double-spaced pages of material for a fifteen-minute talk. [2] 

  • Precision

Most students who drift away from their central point of focus in the presentation are seen with long ineffective presentations that bore your audience. Keeping the presentation short and to the point helps outline your presentation's purpose and highlights prominent aspects of the topic. 

  • Keeping your Audience Engaged 

Students must understand the essence behind presenting in front of others. It is essential to capture an audience’s attention and share your knowledge with them. Having an impactful opening sentence/slide at the beginning of your presentation prevents the rapid deterioration of your audience’s attention which is common in presentations that feel irrelevant, confusing or generic right from the start.


  • Effective Preparation

Lastly, with good preparation, a student must have enough practice to present their work with confidence and in an organized manner. Students must be comfortable with their material and slides and practice their presentation both alone and in front of an audience. One can also practice using a laser pointer or props if they will use them during the presentation. 

Keep in mind that you and your research are the stars of the show, and therefore one must avoid adding any unnecessary information or images that will take the attention away from your work. Practicing in front of a mirror allows students to assess their body language and how it compliments what they are saying in their presentation. [3]

Mediums for Academic Presentations

Irrespective of the presentation quality in front of an audience, the way it is being presented also impacts the target audience. Specific mediums play a significant role in setting the dynamics with the audience. Different platforms that students can use to give a presentation are as follows:

  • PowerPoint Presentation

A popular way of presenting in front of an audience includes using a creative slideshow that aids your audience’s greater attention towards you. This also allows a visual representation of both qualitative and quantitative data. This medium allows you to observe your audience’s changing expressions towards your slides and respond accordingly to effectively solidify their learning by complimenting what they see on the screen with verbalized information. It is highly recommended for informative presentations. 

  • Video Conferencing

Living in a digitally advanced era, individuals commonly conduct presentations online. Remote learning today encourages individuals to update their learning style and even present their knowledge in a technologically advanced manner. Video conferencing allows students to present anywhere and participate in the class. With different third-party apps like Zoom and Google Meet, students can also share their screen and share a PPT while they speak. 

  • Oral 

A simple way to present in front of an audience is to speak to them as is. In this type of presentation, your own body language and dressing play a vital role in setting the right dynamics from the very beginning of your presentation. It is important to start with a creative, open line and remain audibly clear for the audience to understand. It is highly recommended for persuasive presentations.  

How to Present in an Online Class?

Remote learning has gained much popularity in recent years, and the pandemic also made it clear for teachers to start adopting various teaching methods and strategies that complement online learning. [4] Educators have started coming up with innovative methods to conduct online classes and encourage their students to participate through class presentations. There are a bunch of ways a student can present in online classes, including:

  • Webcam

Your laptop or computer device’s camera can be used to get face to face with your audience. Different platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Skype can be used to connect with a group of students online and give a live presentation. In such presentations, students need to find a neutral background with minimal disturbance so that their audience does not get distracted during the presentation and focuses on what the presenter has to say. These presentations can be taken to another level as the presenter can also share their screen and support their words with facts, figures and diagrams on their screen. 

For this, you must find a quiet place to conduct a presentation with minimum background noise as it can create a lot of chaos during your presentation. As much as possible, students should use good quality headphones with a microphone that only picks up close-range sounds to eliminate further noise from being heard by the audience. It is also highly recommended that students consider dressing appropriately to appear professional in front of their peers. 

  • Pre-Recorded Video

With multiple screen recording options, you can record a complete video clip and add written or oral narrations for your audience. An advantage of this setting is that it allows students to edit their presentations and share the best quality results. With pre-recorded videos, you cannot answer live questions therefore, you must cover the topic comprehensively. A complete breakdown of detailed concepts through step-by-step presentations is recommended for a better understanding of the audience. 

  • Asynchronous Presentations

In this type of presentation, the recorded file is viewed later by the audience. This allows greater access to a wider audience with no time constraints. This is ideal for students who have anxiety and fear public speaking as they can easily keep taking takes until they have the perfect one. However, the audience cannot immediately ask any questions related to the presentations and they have to go through leaving a comment or email and wait for a response. [5] 

How Kritik Improves Students' Presentation Skills

Presentations are an effective way of developing several skills that are required for professional growth and academic success. By presenting, students learn by teaching which is an efficient way of consolidating knowledge. Given that presentations play a key role in providing students great learning opportunities, it is important to consider the platform wherein students can present their knowledge and interact with one another. With Kritik, students have the ability to present individually or work with teammates and present as a group. The added benefit of Kritik’s peer-evaluation in presentations is that students can provide structured, professional feedback to the presenter(s) using effective, customized rubrics. Students can upload multiple files of various formats such as audio, video and PPT slides which ensures that students can still deliver information in a manner that is interactive and informative despite the remote learning environment. Here at Kritik, we closely work with hundreds of professors who put an emphasis on developing students’ presentation skills. Kritik provides a great platform for an audience to not just listen but to also provide regular constructive criticism back to the presenter. By using Kritik, your students are empowered to become better presenters through an interactive platform that focuses on rubric-based assessments to facilit

3 ways that Bloom's Revised Taxonomy benefits educators today

What is Bloom's Taxonomy?

When University of Chicago professor Benjamin Bloom and his collaborators penned the inaugural Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in 1956, the team presciently identified the orders of learning best suited to succeed in the modern world, and placed them atop an iconic six-level pyramid of educational attainment. 

From basic knowledge to comprehension, application and analysis of ideas, Bloom’s six orders of learning positioned critical and evaluative thinking skills at the summit of learning. Meanwhile, the qualities that describe the lowest orders of learning—remembering and understanding—form the backbone of most summative, high-stakes assessment.

Originally created as an assessment aid to help classify educational goals, Bloom’s has become a foundational pedagogical model used for curriculum design, setting learning objectives and designing classroom activities.

“Bloom’s has always been important,” says Numer.

“But now I think there's a higher standard for us out there. I think professors today want to come in and deliver a good course and know that they've set out to do what they were trying to do. That isn't always what necessarily happens, but if you're purposeful about it, Bloom’s can help you understand whether the material is getting into students’ brains in a way that is changing their perspectives. If you get to that level, then they've done critical thinking.”

Bloom’s can also help students elevate metacognition—the process of thinking about one’s own thinking. When students start thinking about metacognition, they’re better able to transfer what they’ve learned to new contexts and situations, a skill that’s increasingly in demand in today’s knowledge economy.

At the University of Connecticut, John Redden, an assistant professor in the department of physiology and neurobiology, uses Bloom’s taxonomy in class to show his students what they need to know to succeed.

“I tell them that they all know what a hammer is, what lumber is, what nails are—but that doesn’t mean they know how to build a house,” he told education writer Philip Preville in a 2018 interview. “And I tell them that by the end of this course, they ought to be able to build a house. That’s the goal they need to set for themselves: to be able to explain how all the parts come together and work together.”

Bloom's Taxonomy was revised in 2001

How to use Bloom's Taxonomy as an educator

1. Set learning outcomes

In terms of setting learning outcomes, Bloom’s taxonomy helps instructors think clearly about what, exactly, students will learn in their class and which orders of learning they will use to help their students get there. When professors communicate those objectives upfront, students are given a clearer view of the path to their ultimate destination, making the incremental assignments along the way more meaningful. In Redden’s case, establishing weekly learning objectives “makes the conversations go better when the students are struggling. I can point to the objectives and identify the things they should be able to do. It helps students focus their studies.”

2. Structure classroom activities

With clear learning outcomes set and established with students, Bloom’s can then be used to plan homework and in-class or remote assignments that line up with whichever order of learning an instructor is trying to achieve. Higher-order thinking activities can come in a variety of forms, with educators finding success through assignments such as curation, reflection, team-based learning, problem solving , or creating a video/podcast . It is important to note that research shows structuring classroom activities that promote critical thinking can be effective across a wide range of subject areas, education levels, and assessment types (Double et al. 2019).

3. Assess progress

Finally, Bloom’s can be used to help faculty create assessment questions or assignments that reveal a student’s overall comprehension and mastery of a subject, tailored to the learning outcomes that have been established for the course. Kritik's learning platform allows educators to track each students' progress and assess individual & class trends throughout the semester.


How a professor opts to execute on their course objectives is another matter entirely, and something that will continue to evolve, especially as higher ed wrestles with learning tactics post-pandemic. For many, traditional summative assessments are no longer really possible in a remote environment where timed, monitored exams may be next to impossible to administer. In its place, some faculty have turned to open-book online exams, asynchronous assignments, research projects and ‘epic finales’ that allow students to apply knowledge gleaned throughout the semester in a creative way.

For students, the shift away from high-stakes summative assessment could very well be a positive consequence of the global pandemic. Beyond forcing faculty to rethink how they’re assessing students in general, an increasingly remote learning environment is well-suited to the types of ongoing formative assessments that have been proven to help students access Bloom’s higher-order thinking skills. 

As collaborative, low-stakes assignments become more commonplace, techniques like peer assessment may very well become the most impactful way to deliver the return on an education investment that today’s students require.

Active learning

How to Implement Active Learning in Your Classroom

How to implement active learning in your classroom

Walk into any traditional classroom, be it either higher-ed or grade school, you’re likely to find an instructor lecturing or teaching the class on a particular subject matter. Courses are arranged with at-home readings, in-person lectures, assignments that students complete outside of class for the most part, and other learning activities.

What is striking is that the arrangement of learning has not changed. Today students are inundated with information, both constructive and not-constructive, so the roles of teachers and professors as subject-matter experts have evolved. If you were to ask a student how relevant the information that was presented in a class was to them, many would agree that there is a disconnect between the way instructors teach theories and the relevancy of the theories or facts in today’s world. If students feel like that value of their learning isn’t applicable, relevant, or relatively eye-catching, their minds are likely to wander, and in-turn becomes disengaged with in-class material.

To combat student disengagement inside the classroom, many educators have turned to active learning as a formula for not only improving how students learn but an opportunity to keep them engaged while inside of the classroom. Active learning was derived from the concept that students should be actively applying course concepts while in class, rather than just listening to a traditional lecture and taking notes.

Active learning classroom: history, research, and practice

Learn more about active learning classroom, active learning techniques, and the teaching practices incorporated in this classroom design.

What are active learning classrooms (ALCs)?

Active learning classrooms or ALCs are technology-savvy and student-focused learning spaces that facilitate active learning strategies. These active learning spaces involve the interactions between students, global and local communities, and educators. The objective is to maximize collaborative learning, active learning, and multimodal teaching, which is contrary to traditional learning.

In ALCs, the learning process involves student engagement through different learning activities like writing, problem-solving, reading, or discussion. These active learning approaches give learners informal opportunities for feedback with regards to their understanding of course materials and additional resources for a better learning experience.

Kinesthetic learning – it’s not a new concept

Active learning or alternatively known as Kinesthetic learning is not a new concept. In fact, many of us were taught using the principles of kinesthetic learning. Do you remember your days in kindergarten or your early grade school days? Many students and I remember those years fondly as opportunities to build and construct things - we were drawing and painting pictures, building bridges out of toothpicks and marshmallows, or trying to learn new instruments by playing them. As children, we were presented with in-class projects and how to complete them, and then we were left to our own devices to complete said project.

However, as we got older, learning shifted away from actively doing or making things to listening and note-taking while inside the classroom spaces.

For higher-ed students, the learning and understanding that is derived from completing an assignment, writing, and researching a paper is often done outside of the classroom. Educators today are advocating to bring more of that self-applied learning into the classroom to reduce the amount of time spent lecturing.

This shift in thinking is also highlighted by current events; the COVID Pandemic which forced many schools to close and their students to learn online has caused many students to feel disengaged with course materials as a result of online classes. We want to give you some tips to implement more active learning in your classroom today, regardless if you are teaching in-person or online.

Implementing active learning in higher education

ALCs help students and student groups in their academic careers giving them a high-quality education. Accessibility to this high-level education is achievable through:

Education games

Create fun and engaging games for students to apply their knowledge in, such as quick quizzes on class readings. Games are not only fun and engaging but they are also an opportunity for instructors to see the learning outcomes of the students in real-time. This serves as an indicator of how their class is interacting with course materials – do they understand it, does a change or greater classification need to be made? These questions are answerable with interactive assessment and engagement tools like quick quizzes or games. This has been tested and proven in case studies and research.

The minute paper

Another opportunity for instructors to gauge how well their class is comprehending their material is by asking them to write a minute paper. Typically, 1 to 2 questions long, the minute paper may ask students what they learned during the class and which concepts still aren’t clear. By implementing an assignment like this, instructors are able to see how well the class understands the materials, as well, by forcing students to recount the learnings from a lecture and distill them in a few sentences, also aids in student learning and comprehension of the material.

Peer assessment

Utilizing peer-to-peer assessment is a useful tool in helping students gain a wider perspective on course concepts. Each student, with their own unique background and individual learnings, apply their knowledge to assess their peers’ work. In return, students are exposed to new ideas or approaches that may not have been discussed in class.

Peer assessment can be difficult to monitor for accuracy if students aren’t guided directly. Kritik’s high-tech peer review platform calibrates each student's assessment to ensure each student receives a fair and accurate grade on their assessments.

In-class debates

Debates aren’t just fun to watch, they also require students to prepare effectively to ensure they are successful. Perhaps a subset of education games, debates are commonly used as a barometer to see how well course concepts are understood by students. To succeed in a debate, surface-level information will not be enough to win, debaters must understand at a deeper level the intricacies of a topic or theory to be able to successfully defend their point of view. Debaters must understand the concept itself; common objections or cons of the concept; and be able to construct arguments against those common objections to be successful.

Active learning in your classroom

The above recommendations are just some of the ideas available to instructors to create a more dynamic and engaging learning environment that helps students learn more effectively. As the fall semester gets underway, it is an opportunity for instructors to create new learning environments for their students. With online learning likely to be the scenario most professors will find themselves in, the need to engage your students more beyond just a zoom lecture is ever-most pertinent. Active learning tools are proven tips to boost classroom engagement while improving student learning.

Incorporate active learning in your class and you will see its learning outcomes for your students. Whether in virtual or physical space, active learning classrooms scale-up the efficiency of educators when they apply active learning strategies in their teaching practices. It does not matter what subject-matter they are teaching, sciences education, or any other course. This will serve as a guide to teaching in higher ed.

Equity in Education

Equity in Education: Race, Poverty & COVID

The quality of education a student receives is directly correlated with the quality of life that student experiences as they get older. Therefore it is crucial that both political bodies as well as educational institutions, ensure that any barriers which may prevent disadvantaged students from gaining an equitable high-quality education and academic achievement are promptly removed. This would be classified as the achievement gap. While equity in education has remained a constant problem despite advances from institutions and educators, the recent COVID lockdowns have further exacerbated those divisions. Before we discuss the effect school closures have had on student learning, it is important to understand what equity is and how it is different than equality in the context of higher education.

Equity vs. Equality, is there a difference?

For many individual students the terms equity and equality are often used interchangeably. While it may appear that there is little distinction between the terms, there is in fact a considerable difference. Equality refers to a state of being equal, where every individual receives the same rights, opportunities and access to resources within education systems. [1] While equality is clearly beneficial, it doesn’t address an individual’s specific needs. That is to say, if a school gives every student an iPad to do their homework on, it doesn’t mean that the student may be able to do their homework, as the solution (giving iPads) doesn’t address specific issues a student may face such as: lack of internet, language barriers, low-income or demotivating at-home environments.  

Equity on the other hand, provides students with the resources they need that best address the problems they face given circumstances they currently find themselves in and where inequity and equity issues exists. The World Health Organization defines social equity as “the absence of avoidable or remediable difference among groups of people.” [2]

Equality does not lead to equity; every individual must be examined based on their own unique circumstances and ensure they are treated justly.

Equity vs. Equality in education

Many educational institutions such as public schools focus on the social justice approach known as horizontal equity; which is to treat students, who are already assumed as being equal, the same way and provide equal opportunities. [3] However, that definition can only be correct if schools are homogenous, which is to say that  every student is given the same opportunities in life. That is unfortunately, not the case. Most students come from a variety of backgrounds where some may be more privileged than others, providing them with varying educational opportunity. Therefore, it is prudent that educators utilize vertical equity; which assumes that students have different needs and are provided specific resources to address those needs. [4]

One of the biggest blockades to equity in education remains poverty. According to a recent study, nearly 60% of students classified as disadvantaged come from low-income households & communities. [5] Schools in impoverished areas, or disadvantaged students who lack financial means may not have access to the resources they need to succeed in the classroom and attain a college degree.  

When the lens of ethnicity is applied, the divides are even more striking. According to recent US Census data, 25.8% of African American students within school systems live in poverty compared to 11.6% of white students. This socioeconomic status has a direct correlation on student outcomes.[6]

Race & COVID lockdowns; the impact on education

In a recent McKinsey study, the chronic achievement gaps between disadvantaged groups, with certain demographics namely African-Americans & Hispanics compared to white students grew as a result of COVID school closures in this school year. “The average Black or Hispanic student remains roughly two years behind the average white student, and low-income students continue to be underrepresented among top performing students.” [7]

According to a study we at Kritik ran, nearly 60% of students said their education suffered as a result of online learning. That is bracketed by a 2015 study by Stanford that found online learning does not deliver the same academic results as in-person classes. [8] Online learning is less effective than in-person classes & greater learning loss is experienced along racial lines.  

In a recent Curriculum Associates report, nearly 60% of low-income students were likely to log on and engage with online learning, that is compared to nearly 90 of high-income students. [9] When race is factored in, given that underperforming schools are located in low-income areas, or high poverty schools. Black students in higher education are disproportionately affected. McKinsey estimates that the learning loss as a result of COVID school closures is roughly 10.4 months for black students compared to just 6 months for white students. [10]

How to make learning more equitable

Addressing these challenges is no easy feat, especially given the government mandates imposed on higher-ed institutions as a result of COVID. But there are modifications instructors can harness which promote equity in their classrooms and can address the learning gap as we head into the fall semester.  

1. Develop more asynchronous learning opportunities

Given that one of the main factors in the learning gap McKinsey alluded too, occurred as a result of students disengaged with the material and unwilling to log on. Students may not be available during the day, perhaps they have allocated more time to work at their part-time jobs, or some family members may have been laid-off. Professors that allow for flexibility in how their students learn can retain student engagement. Kritik offers instructors discussion features & creative assignments that allow students to take learning outside of the classroom.

Team-based learning is also a tool instructors can deploy to keep their students engaged with the course and other students while studying remotely.  

2. Peer assessment & curating diverse opinions

Students often feel that their voice isn’t heard or that it may not matter. Being able to see the work of their peers and evaluate it based on their own circumstances and unique perspectives is a powerful motivational tool that allows students to feel that their opinion matters.  

Professors are also able to crowd-source course content ideas from students. Case studies, assignments and class discussion topics can be submitted by students and evaluated by each of them to ensure diverse ideas are continuously being put forward.  

Educators may not have control over whether or not their school will be online, in-person or hy-flex, but they do have the ability to foster an equitable classroom student environment that engages students & ensures diverse opinions are heard and appreciated.

Hyflex Model

What are Hybrid-Flexible or Hyflex Courses and Their Impact on Student Learning

Higher-ed institutions are preparing for students this fall. The question of whether these students will be welcomed back online, or in-campus varies from one institution to another. Some universities made a statement and vowed to re-open for in-person classes in the fall season. The others have said they will offer only online classes. The third option some institutions are offering is Hybrid-Flexible or Hyflex classes. These hybrid classes give students options whether they want to learn in-person or study remotely. Let us break down both the pros and cons of a hyflex learning option to help students make the right decision.

What is hyflex learning?

Hybrid-Flexible or Hyflex course design presents hybrid learning components in a flexible course structure. Its hybrid-flexible course design offers student choice to participate online, attend a class session, or do both. This setup permits students to change their attendance by topic or weekly based on students’ preferences or need.

Hyflex model of class integrates online synchronous video sessions, in-class instruction, or asynchronous course content delivery. Instructors need to deliver the class as they do in a regular classroom. However, students may also take part in the class via a class session recording or video conferencing.

Thankfully, this offers the most accessibility and flexibility for remote students.

What are hyflex courses?

Higher education institutions just like the University of Toronto recently announced their offering for Hyflex learning opportunities to students. Hyflex courses are higher education classes which are taught in-person and online simultaneously. Students can choose whether they want to attend the class in-person like the face-to-face strategy or remain online. For some academic institutions, once the students make their choice, they are not allowed to switch during the semester, whereas others will allow for student rotation which permits students to have both in-person/face-to-face and online.

Before delving into how educators may be able to maximize student learning for the hyflex courses, let us go over their pros and cons first.

Why a hyflex course or hyflex model is beneficial:

1. Students choose what is best for them

Many borders are still closed to foreign travel due to the pandemic. This makes the international students unable to enter the countries in which they are studying in. For those students who are permitted to enter, second wave threats and further border closures may prevent them from returning to their home in the future. Likewise, students have varying degrees of comfort when it comes to dealing with COVID. Some students may not feel comfortable venturing to hybrid classes, particularly if they are reliant on public transit when COVID remains a threat. Accessibility to learning activities becomes thin.

Meanwhile, students who do want to be back to normal may go for in-person classes. Students who are living near the campus have private transportation. These students enjoy being around other students and active learning in-person has the ability to select the option that is best for them.

2.  Allows institutions to return to “somewhat” normal operation

The governments around the world set social distancing protocols and guidelines. This makes their ability to maintain classes at capacity is not feasible. The thing is that institutions encountered a dilemma carrying out edu modalities these days. On one hand, there was the need to maximize student enrolment so operational costs could be covered. On the other hand, the issue of space is at stake. Schools do not have the room to allow students to learn in socially distanced lecture halls. This is rightly done while maintaining class quotas. Which is why the hybrid classes are now being offered.

A move to continue online learning into the fall was not feasible given that 60% of students surveyed said online classes have impacted their education.

Furthermore, educators or professors are not yet fully-comfortable with teaching in front of their laptop may now be able to return to lecture halls and have their class live-streamed for students learning at home.

While this hyflex model seems like a victory, it also comes with a number of drawbacks that instructors need to be aware of.

Cons of hyflex courses

1. Student disengagement & isolation

When classes were thrust online, the challenge of professors was to ensure students felt motivated and engaged while learning online. Given the in-person classes today, the challenge for students learning online receive the same attention as those another in the classrooms? How to foster a learning culture with half of the class are remote students? How do students form bonds with one another in this hybrid-flexible course design? How the ideas flow from one student to student over the in-person/online class divide? These are all questions educators must face as student engagement is at stake.

2. Lack of proper technology

After nearly a full semester of online classes, we know that students need more than Zoom, webcam, podcast, or video conferencing in order to receive a quality online higher education. Unfortunately, many schools are not prepared with the proper technology that improves online learning outcomes.

Studies indicate lack of personalized feedback as one of the biggest gaps in terms of online learning, as students cited. Nearly 80% of students say that if their schools would institute technology that allows for more personalized feedback, they would be more inclined to enroll in courses offered online. Enrollment for hybrid classes would be a bit of success.

3. Impact on foreign students

While I opened this article citing the pros of hyflex courses for foreign students, it also negatively affects them. Classes are live-streamed, and questions are able to be answered live by instructors. What happens to students in different time-zones then? How do we ensure that the needs of students who aren’t able to attend classes “live” are met too?

How professors can prepare for hyflex courses

Limited movement outside every household now becomes the new norm leading to the new learning experience in higher education. This poses to instructors as they need to focus on and plan for several audiences. This can be a great student choice for an online course but an extra challenge that professors need to prepare.

1.  Ensure the provision of accessibility of hyflex learning for learners

Take into account the accessibility that every student may have when you are planning for learning activities and designing the significant course materials. The captions in all the videos used in the class need to be accurate. Spend extra time for students in need of assessment in online quizzes or exams. The bottom line is, ensure the accessibility of all the materials necessary in the entire course.

2. Personalized feedback on assignments

Provide the higher edu students with detailed information about their assignments & clear paths for improvement. While it may be time-consuming for educators to provide the students with the levels of personalized feedback they need, consider utilizing peer to peer assessment as an option to provide your students feedback quality that they need.

3. Create vibrant online discussion groups

Creating a space that allows students to connect and engage with one another outside of the online class is important. Post questions, set discussion topics, or share news & jokes are some of the viable participation modes. Regardless of the course material, the need to connect in-person & remote learners will be crucial.

4. Consider the application of technology in the classroom

Rooms may vary in terms of using technology. Some online classrooms may have webcam and laptop while some may have built-in audio, recording, and full-video capabilities. Try to view training videos showing the functionality of technology set in the classroom. Perform a test run whenever possible before the first class starts to make certain that you are good to go and be comfortable during the lecture.

5. Differentiated forms of assessment

Opt for a multiple-choice quiz or a standard research paper. Develop assignments which engage the students with course concepts at a deeper level. Consider team-based learning which pairs in-person and remote students together to solve complex problems. This is where student engagement becomes critical.

Concluding thoughts

Although Hyflex courses are the perfect learning model, between 100% in-person classes or 100% online classes, hyflex is the best model given the times we currently live in. While the hyflex courses are not here to stay forever, perhaps they’ll be the motivating factor institutions needed to invest in technologies that foster more diverse learning options for their students.

Team-Based Learning

What is Team Based Learning?

Team-based learning (TBL) is a form of learning that is often discussed, but many misunderstand. TBL is a form of student learning that was developed to ensure each student oversees greater levels of autonomy and responsibility for their work and their own learning. [1] To understand team-based learning, we must first establish what are the key tenets of it and how it differentiates from the other types of learning.

Here are the TBL tenets

1.  Each student group is permanent (for the entire duration of the semester)

2.  Each student has a responsibility to contribute & is assessed independently

3.  Students must work collectively on applying course concepts to assignments and other learning activities

Teams vs. groups, what’s the difference?

Group activities aren’t new for most educators, but group-based learning is different from team-based learning. Oftentimes, students choose who they want to work with in a group.  They have the freedom to switch group members between assignments. Students have a commitment to help each other in the group work.

On the other hand, TBL may not allow students to choose their own team members and teams do not change from assignment to assignment. Team members are selected based on their experiences and skills to ensure the variation among each student. By ensuring team members don’t change throughout the semester, students develop close bonds and learn from their teammates resulting in team development.  Also, they assist one another so the team can out-perform on the tasks assigned to them.

‍Teamwork and the collaborative works of the students are necessary both in student teams and groups. It doesn't matter what specific choice you make as there is no wrong or correct answer as to the proper facilitation of the whole process.

The science behind team-based learning

Helen Batty and Patricia Hrynchak argue the collaborative sense of the central tenets of constructivist learning in team-based learning which “focus is on the mental representation of information by the learner:” [2] The TBL process involves the following:

1.  The Teacher is a guide to facilitate learning and carry out their learning strategies.

2.  Learners should encounter differences between their previous understanding and new experiences. In turn, this serves as a basis to develop new understandings of concepts.

3.  A focus on relevant problems coupled with group interaction helps facilitate learning.

4.  Learning requires thoughtful reflection.

The educator, in the TBL system, sets the objectives along with the assignment itself. However, it will allow the groups to navigate the assignment for a solution to a significant problem on their own. This problem-based learning development will facilitate debate among team members in which each individual challenges others’ viewpoint based upon their understanding.

Collectively, one solution will emerge, and each team member’s understanding of the concept will inherently change as well. Student teams in this learning environment focus on subject matters such as health sciences.

Is team-based learning effective?

Indiana University’s Richard Hake gathered data on 2084 students in 14 introductory physics courses in 1998. Here, the students were taught with traditional, passive types of learning (Instructor lecturing to students). The students analyze the pre & post-test score results of the TBL application exercises. This is a readiness assurance process that assesses the learning capacity of the students.

Hake compared the results to students who received a hands-on or interactive learning such as TBL. He found out that students who received interactive learning scored two deviations higher than those students who received traditional forms of learning. [3] This also signifies the importance of a teaching strategy, critical thinking, and decision-making in TBL application activities.

Peer feedback drives the success behind team-based learning

Study results indicate that students can best learn when feedback occurs quickly and frequently throughout the duration of an assignment. For some professors teaching larger classes, it may be difficult to institute a TBL classroom. This is why many professors take the central tenet – PeerFeedback – and apply that to their courses.

Breaking up larger assignments such as term papers into smaller assignments has proven successful for many professors including Professor Carpenter of Michigan State University who uses Kritik’s peer feedback platform for his class time. The transformative use of small groups allows students to receive immediate feedback early in the process. A mini-lecture can be a great way to get results for a team readiness assurance test.  

Student peer Evaluation in team-based learning

The peer evaluation of the students serves as a critical feedback source for student learning in TBL. In a TBL course, the evaluation reflects the assessment of each member’s contribution to team learning. It keeps the students accountable to their teammates.

The evaluation’s formative information helps an individual student improve team performance. It develops the team and interpersonal skills which are significant for student success in the future. Also, active learning is necessary for the assessment of the perception and performance of the students in this pedagogy.

Team based learning denotes the relevance of student engagement through learning activities. This is viable and doable for small group learning.

Students Learning / Group interview

The Soft Skills College Students Need to Develop

Life-post college may be unsettling for many new graduates, especially those who have graduated during economic uncertainty. The challenge of finding the coveted first-job-out-of-college is a daunting thought for many fresh graduates. Students have the degrees, they have the knowledge, but what else do they need? Employers have routinely stated that soft-skills are an essential aspect in their decision to hire a new candidate or not. And sadly, not all young people possess the employability skills required by potential employers. One would think that with extensive career exploration, graduates could get employed with jobs that suit them appropriately. But in the current workforce, employers seek soft skills in potential employees that will help gain workplace success in their organizations. I would like to showcase three key soft-skills we believe are critical for the future career of young graduates to help them achieve career success after college.

Creative problem-solving

The challenges that graduates have with modern organizations today; were not faced by the previous generations. Soft skills were not required to guarantee career success in past years only hard skills. The old rule books do not apply in real life anymore. Creative problem-solving is an approach to providing creative solutions through independent ideas. The modern-day method of problem-solving demands graduates to be able to look at problems and quickly come up with new solutions with limited-to-no contextual resources present. They are expected to apply their skill in critical thinking to come up with ideas and innovations that advance workplace success.

How to leverage new technology to attract a new audience subset, how to leverage big-data to drive insightful and unique solutions, or how to convert traditional businesses into modern hubs of commerce. Answering these questions demands new ways to approach the problem.

Communication skills: give & receive feedback

These days, employers assess the viability of a candidate often upon their promotability. Questions arise, such as questions to test your role play in a work environment like; can this candidate become a manager/leader in the organization? Does this person have effective listening skills and make effective eye contact. Or questions to try and test your level of adaptability in situations that require teamwork. The ability to provide feedback that corrects team members for their mistakes but motivates them to improve for the next iteration, helps with self-awareness and shows how good of a leader such a person could be. Do students know how to approach feedback? Unfortunately not, the current education system and learning environment are built around a central source for information, where the professor owns the feedback on each student's assignments. Students themselves are not taught how to provide feedback on their peers’ work.

Effective teamwork

New employees would rarely be placed in an isolated work environment. Some employers believe they lack the important skills , necessary to achieve workplace success. Instead, new hires are fixed to work in collaborative settings with other team members who possess the essential job skills needed. Many employers are attracted to students who can challenge group thinking and engage in communication activities. They pick interests in students who feel empowered to showcase their problem-solving and decision-making skills to provide solutions when in the face of a problem rather than acceding to everyone else's suggestions. Teamwork skills are essential in the modern workplace, and the ability to engage in interactive discussions among team members is an interpersonal skill that can help graduates in a new place of work. Soft skills like active listening, verbal communication, and having a positive attitude can help graduates in developing team building and effective teamwork.

Teaching soft skills

To achieve career success, students are advised to work ahead of time. Students from middle school as well as high school students do not have to wait till they get to college or until they are graduates before grooming their soft skills. Soft skills should be taught to students to assist them in skill development and acquiring new skills. These are a few examples of soft skills that could help students thrive in a place of work. Skills like; time management, adaptability, public speaking, effective communication, and many other life skills that will drive them to achieve career success. As new school term approaches, instructors should look at tools that embed the learning of soft-skills to give their students soft skills training. As your students graduate and enter the workforce during these turbulent economic times, their ability to thrive may just be a result of your actions today.

Asynchronous learning

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning for Online Classes

As higher-ed institutions across North America announced plans to continue their online learning mandate instituted during the COVID-19 lockdowns, professors are scrambling once again to create courses built for the online world that keeps students engaged & maximizes their learning potential (Read: Report – 32% of students won’t enrol in courses this fall because of online learning)

Synchronous learning has historically been the focus for most universities and colleges around the world: in-person, learn in a real-time type of education. COVID changed that. Classes were suddenly thrust online, and due to a lack of adequate technology, many professors and schools sought new ways of teaching that could benefit their students. Asynchronous learning, long a staple for previously instituted online-schools, is coursework that allows students to learn at their own pace without the need for in-person instruction. In this article, we explore the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

What is synchronous learning?

In synchronous learning, students will be attending online classes every week at the same time as their classmates and instructors. Virtual classes are a weekly commitment where rescheduling is not allowed.

As an instructor, you will set a dedicated agenda to ensure the productivity of each class session. It is not always you who gives a video lecture or discussion. You may allow students to lead the discussions themselves or provide their presentations.

John Muir, an instructional designer in Ohio, notes discipline-focused and active things in these sessions. Muir considers this as the same setup of classroom activities but is done on a virtual setting.

What is asynchronous learning?

On the other hand, asynchronous learning permits you to have your own schedule in a specific timeframe. This type of learning gives you access and complete readings, lectures, and other learning materials anytime within a timeframe.

Flexibility is the primary perk of this learning. You will be providing your students with short videos teaching primary concepts that you can watch again and again whenever necessary. Allow students to complete their homework and provide immediate feedback rather than let them wait for their grade.

However, this does not mean that asynchronous classes are less rigorous compared to their on-campus or synchronous counterparts.

The gap between synchronous and asynchronous learning

A gap between synchronous vs asynchronous learning arises when the current value-proposition of universities and colleges is centred around real-time learning with world-class educators. Students pay to listen and ‘absorb’ knowledge from experts in their field, but can that mandate exist with asynchronous online learning?

Synchronous learning is group learning where all students learn at the same time. Meanwhile, students decide when to learn in asynchronous learning. With that being said, comparing synchronous vs asynchronous learning can help instructors to accommodate various learning styles.

What students need from online learning

While students certainly miss face-to-face interactions with their educators, students cited that what they need the most from current online systems is a better mechanism to receive feedback on their current work. Think about it; pre-COVID, students were able to ask questions during lectures, speak to a professor after class, interact with their peers about coursework simply by turning to the student next to them. Online learning has largely removed these aspects from the academic experience. Now students are forced to send emails and log into LMS-portals to speak with professors. Just like that, the simplicity of feedback and inquires is gone.

Blending synchronous with asynchronous learning

For professors currently debating which two schools of thought are best for their students to come fall, it’s not that one is better than the other, instead, the solution must be a hybrid of the two. Incorporating elements of both synchronous and asynchronous learning provides students with the flexibility and autonomy that they crave in a course.

Students choose to attend class to listen to lead educators discussing their insights. They need a better way to interact and feel engaged with the course material during and after each lecture. This fall, we recommend focusing more on student engagement and helping students learn better, rather than the mechanisms of delivering your course-content.

Blended learning leads educators to become more focused on mixing synchronous and asynchronous learning online for student outcome optimization. However, professors often struggle to blend both types of learning because of the following reasons:

Introducing synchronous and asynchronous learning can be challenging. Though educators want to offer the benefits of both delivery styles whenever possible, it can be difficult to juggle new elements of course delivery. However, this measure gives remote students the opportunity to personalize learning in a manner that is workable for them.

Student familiarity with technologies and an understanding of how they can accomplish learning objectives is necessary for maximizing their effect impact in online-based classes.

Thanks to technology administrators, workflows maximizing the benefits from these learning modalities into an integrated system can now be streamlined. This helps instructors focus on teaching, not the inner workings of the technology itself only. The objective is to strengthen learning and teaching by enabling the faculty to reshape the learning experiences while providing students more control and flexibility over their learning.

Such a learning environment aids universities in achieving the same goals in a synchronous vs asynchronous learning environment or in a hybrid system. In turn, blending asynchronous and synchronous learning in their coursework becomes easier for educators.

Technologies of blended synchronous and asynchronous learning

The ecosystem of blended learning involves different technologies. These learning technologies are as follows:

Learning Management System or LMS – The hub intended for course communications, course management, and course materials.

Video Management System – A video solution for asynchronous learning which simplifies the development of the system. The system secures the sharing of student video presentations, on-demand video communications, micro-learning videos, recorded live class sessions, and pre-recorded lectures.

Video Conferencing – Asynchronous learning solution online allowing teachers and students to see and interact with each other in real-time.

Synchronous and asynchronous learnings do differ in some ways in terms of online education. It is up to you, as an instructor, how to make the most of them for your students.

Peer learning platform

Help Students Learn Better: Develop Their Critical Thinking Skills, Problem Solving and Decision Making

The following is an excerpt from our eBook: The Definitive Guide to Peer Assessment

When University of Chicago professor Benjamin Bloom and his collaborators penned the inaugural Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in 1956, the team presciently identified the orders of learning best suited to succeed in the modern world, and placed them atop an iconic six-level pyramid of educational attainment.

From basic knowledge to comprehension, application and analysis of ideas, Bloom’s six orders of learning positioned critical thinking skills at the summit of learning. Meanwhile, the qualities that describe the lowest orders of learning—remembering and understanding—form the backbone of most summative, high-stakes assessment.

Originally created as an assessment aid to help classify educational goals, in higher education, Bloom’s has become a foundational pedagogical model used for curriculum design, setting learning objectives and designing classroom activities, helping to increase the problem solving and decision making in college students, rather than simply taking things they have learned at face value, helping them become critical thinkers.

Building Critical Thinking Skills With Bloom's Taxonomy

“Bloom’s has always been important,” says Numer. “But now I think there's a higher standard for us out there. I think professors today want to come in and deliver a good course and know that they've set out to do what they were trying to do. That isn't always what necessarily happens, but if you're purposeful about it, Bloom’s can help you understand whether the material is getting into students’ brains in a way that is changing their perspectives. If you get to that level, then they've done critical thinking.”

Bloom’s can also help both students elevate metacognition—the process of thinking about one’s own thinking when trying to build critical thinking skills. When students start thinking about metacognition, they’re better able to transfer what they’ve learned to new contexts and situations, such as everyday life, a skill that’s increasingly in demand in today’s knowledge economy. A good critical thinker within job candidates is ultimately one that employers value.

At the University of Connecticut, educators like John Redden, an assistant professor in the department of physiology and neurobiology, uses Bloom’s taxonomy in class to show his students what they need to know to succeed and build critical thinking abilities. “I tell them that they all know what a hammer is, what lumber is, what nails are—but that doesn’t mean they know how to build a house,” he told education writer Philip Preville in a 2018 interview. “And I tell them that by the end of this course, they ought to be able to build a house. That’s the goal they need to set for themselves: to be able to explain how all the parts come together and work together.”

Let's understand what critical thinking is and how university and college students can become good critical thinkers with this definition of critical thinking:

"“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

- Criticalthinking.org

Becoming Better Critical Thinkers

This in itself helps college students in higher education in a number of ways, developing problem solving skills, it sets a foundation for critical thinking abilities that educators can use to help students understand more complex problems and building a more critical thought process.

Practically speaking, many educators use Bloom’s in three ways: to set learning outcomes, structure classroom activities and to assess progress. These are the important skills that help build critical thinking process into everyday higher education.

Critical thinking abilities also matter in everyday life because it allows us to have higher order thinking. We don't often think why we breathe per se, but having the understanding of the 'why', can allow us to question and use deductive reasoning in order to come to conclusions, remove biases, and ultimately become better critical thinkers. At some points in your life for example In job descriptions we might see must have's like:

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • critical thinking skills
  • Good at finding solutions to complex problems.  

In terms of setting learning outcomes, Bloom’s taxonomy helps educators think clearly about what, exactly, students will learn in their class and which higher orders of learning they will use to help their students in their development of critical thinking, and conceptualization, remove any preconceived biases and how they will get there. When professors communicate those objectives upfront, students are given a clearer view of the path to their ultimate destination, making the incremental assignments along the way more meaningful. In Redden’s case, establishing weekly learning objectives “makes the conversations go better when the students are struggling. I can point to the objectives and identify the things they should be able to do. It helps students focus their studies and become better critical thinkers.” With clear learning outcomes set and established with students, Bloom’s can then be used to plan homework and in-class or remote assignments that line up with whichever higher order of learning an instructor is trying to achieve. Finally, Bloom’s can be used to help faculty create assessment questions or assignments that reveal a student’s overall comprehension and mastery of a subject, tailored to the learning outcomes that have been established for the course.

How an educator opts to execute on their course objectives is another matter entirely, and something that will continue to evolve, especially as higher ed wrestles with learning tactics post-pandemic. For many, traditional summative assessments are no longer really possible in a remote environment where timed, monitored exams may be next to impossible to administer. Some possible solutions In its place, some faculty have turned to open-book online exams, asynchronous assignments, research projects and ‘epic finales’ that allow students to apply knowledge gleaned throughout the semester in a creative way.

For university and college students, the shift away from high-stakes summative assessment could very well be a positive consequence of the global pandemic. Beyond forcing faculty to rethink how they’re assessing students in general, an increasingly remote learning environment is well-suited to the types of ongoing formative assessments that have been proven to help students access Bloom’s higher-order thinking skills.

As collaborative, low-stakes assignments become more commonplace, techniques like peer assessment may very well become the most impactful way to deliver the return on an education investment that today’s students require.

Student assessment

Using Bloom's Taxonomy to Enhance Academic Performance

There is no secret formula that will improve academic achievement in students. If it had been there, it would differ by faculty. The purpose of this article is to lay out theories that have worked; real studies that are directly achieving academic success and student success.

Leveraging the science of Bloom's Taxonomy

Students reaching higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) can achieve good grades. HOTS is widely known for its application in STEM-related courses, such as how students analyze problem sets in mathematics courses [4]. Bloom's Taxonomy is a learning concept that classifies educational goals to foster higher-order thinking skills [1]. The progression of elements centers around the domain of cognition.

According to Krathwohl, Bloom's revised taxonomy is a hierarchy of learning elements that starts with remembering, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation, and creation. The learning pyramid together will enable students to engage in a cognitive process where they build their skills to ensure that learning is groomed appropriately [3].

Blooms Taxonomy

How does Bloom's Taxonomy apply to your course structure?

In applying Bloom's Taxonomy in real life, Kritik's gamified online peer assessment tool allows students to earn Kritik points to showcase their strength as a peer assessor. The Evaluation score combines how well you were able to assess your peers' work (based on rubric criteria laid out by the professor) in comparison to how the rest of the students evaluated the same creation. Also, the Kritik system can determine the potentiality of the feedback you provided to ensure that your assessment was from a critical and motivational perspective.  We have found that after administering 5-6 activities on Kritik, students generally increase their Evaluation score points total. Through our research and feedback so far, we have found that students who adopt a "Learning by Teaching" mindset can maintain course concepts more efficiently and effectively. This loop of consistent and increasingly quality feedback throughout the term is leading to students becoming more engaged in their work with a positive attitude. Also, the comments and feedback allow for students to improve on their creations, ultimately leading to good grades and higher class averages.

Graph of student performance

Food for thought:

  • What level of Bloom's Taxonomy do your current assessments sustain?
  • What aspects of the pyramid does your course heavily focus on?
  • Do your assessments allow for a vivid and accurate tracking of student performance and facilitate increases in quality as the term progresses?

To integrate the science behind Bloom's Taxonomy it is essential to construct feasible course goals. Higher-level goals relate to applying concepts whereas a lower-level goal would be more of remembering a definition or filling in multiple-choice questions [3]. Binding both goals together is the bridging goal, where a concept must be understood. Thus, student achievement is also tied to proper goal setting. So students need to know how to set course goals.


Lower-level cognitive task: Remembering [3]

e.g, when asked, the learner will list all six levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy of learning.

Green - Criteria Red- Condition Orange- Performance

In action

A study conducted at the University of Papua focused on the relationship between HOTS and Mathematics for student academic performance. Their research method consisted of a practice exam conducted for 41 final year mathematics students within an hour to complete 9 HOTS-related questions and be assessed by a holistic rubric [4]. Critical thinking questions included conceptual understanding, prediction of impacts, comprehending principles, problem-solving, and decision-making. While creatively thinking on how they could work within a competency limit and their level of time-management was assessed, new challenges were addressed, and their thinking patterns merged with their imagination. The evaluation of the questions consisted of reviewing the understanding of problems, the problem-solving procedure, and the correct answers. According to the regression analysis model developed, the GPA value was estimated to increase by 0.017 units for every one-unit increase in HOTS [4]. In conclusion, the relationship between HOTS and the students' GPA was linear, positive, and strong. [4]

The effect of assessing vs being assessed

An interesting question arises: Can peer review be used as a tool in your classroom to increase students HOTS? Peer review integrates the teaching concept of learning that is the most effective way of retaining information and knowledge.

A study at the University of Barcelona focused on assessment and evaluation of higher education to determine whether giving or receiving feedback was more efficient for student performance [5]. To draw up a written paper on which to give feedback, a graduate class was put into groups behind the study. Students submitted and completed a survey based on their learning experience [5]. Using a survey that incorporated research indicators analyzing the relationship between cognitive learning and the development of discipline-related academic skills, they found that students as evaluators gained more from their experience and had a greater impact on assignment and knowledge transfer to future tasks [5].

Students who adopt a "Learning by Teaching" mindset can more efficiently and effectively retain concepts of a course. This loop of consistent and increasingly high-quality feedback throughout the term leads to more engagement with their work among students.

In the Kritik creation stage (which is the initial phase of activity or assessment), students are encouraged to understand the instructions and rubric evaluation criteria. So, it is clear how to approach a problem. However, by assessing peers' work, students need to actively analyze the submissions to identify errors and implement new ways to further simplify the hard work of their peers to help them get the correct answer and improve their study skills. Moreover, they can engage in HOTS by reviewing other creations by re-evaluating their methodology to solve the problem (learning strategies). By providing peer evaluations, students encompass learning by teaching mindset, encouraging students to analyze and evaluate the course concepts and knowledge to create submissions that meet the expectations of the assignment.

How to optimize peer assessment in your classroom

Not sure how to integrate peer assessment into your work syllabus? Kritik users Professor Alex Gainer and Jeff Boggs saw that reading-related activities helped high school students better engage with their material. Readings can usually be passive, but students can further increase their academic performance through note-taking during an interactive lecture prep.