Learning By Teaching: the Future of Classrooms

Improved Teaching
Getting Students Involved

For a course to be successful, engaging students is of the utmost importance, as it incorporates teaching methods that encourage new processes of learning. Some questions which should be considered are:

  1. What do students bring to the course?
  2. How many hours do students spend on coursework outside of the class?
  3. How often do students contact their professors?
  4. What studying strategies do students implement?

As a student myself, I wouldn't expect professors to know all the answers from the questions above. It is already difficult for professors to juggle their time between lecturing, research and administrative duties. However, it doesn't mean it isn't possible, as we are seeing many professors incorporating formative peer review as a way to integrate students in both the learning and teaching processes in a classroom.

Formative peer review is when students are introduced to new assignments and criteria to assess that assignment. By administering practice activities and keeping expectations clear, students are trained on how to assess and provide feedback on their peer's creations [1]. From the feedback that a student receives, students can compare the quality of their work with their peers in terms of whether they meet or exceed the expectations of their instructor. Through this process, students improve their critical thinking skills by reviewing the writing of their peers and gaining a better understanding of how their peers came to a particular conclusion [2].

Adding Value in the Classroom

While feedback is very valuable for improving knowledge retention, it is almost impossible for a professor to provide quality and consistent weekly feedback for each activity or assessment throughout the term. Peer review offers the opportunity to establish continuous feedback in courses which can be of great value to both students and professors.

The feedback and assessments students will provide from peer-review will be the greatest contribution a student can bring to a course. Feedback goes beyond typical coursework as students are encouraged to give feedback knowing that helping their peers is the reward.

Creating Dedicated & Vigilant Evaluators

Giving feedback isn't perceived as extensive extra work, so in return, students often put more thought to provide quality motivational and critical feedback that makes sense and is supported with reason. We typically see professors administering around 5 Kritik activities throughout the term. For each activity, students typically evaluate around 4 their peers’ creations. The evaluation process generally only takes on average approximately 8 minutes per evaluation, so ultimately we’re talking about an extra ~30 minutes of work per activity, once every 2 weeks, which is around 2.5 extra hours of work spread over the whole term. Through gamification, students natural competitive nature is highlighted and they are motivated to give feedback that their peers will find motivational and critical. It has become a great way for students to be actively engaged outside of classroom hours.

By completing a peer review on an online peer assessment tool, implementing anonymous feedback can be made much easier. Professors have even testified students having recognized and reported plagiarism from using an anonymous online peer assessment tool.

Why anonymity works?

For starters, it eliminates a lot of bias that students may have when evaluating their peers' assessments. It maintains the integrity of giving honest and direct feedback [3]. Also, students will be less self-conscious when providing reviews, saving them the time of having to over analyze every word or personalized message. Even for the perspective of the receiver, reading anonymous feedback or interpreting anonymous assessments of your work, it is more likely for students to take into consideration all the feedback their peers provided. Non-anonymous peer review tend to have skewed results where students provide similar evaluations and feedback for each student for social-related reasons.

Doing More with Less

  • Implementing peer review in your classroom mimics a group dynamic such that students can rely on each other to track improvements in learning and how to better understand problems related to the course. This in return removes the need for students to rely on professors to ask the very same questions that their peers can address. Professors can feel good cutting office hours shorter by setting up an online peer assessment tool and spend more time teaching.
  • Using an online peer evaluation platform, opens up a new window for students to engage with different types of students in terms of knowledgeability, critical thinking skills and so on that they would not have before. It reduces students' social barriers while making the most of their experience related to the course.

A Long-Term Studying Strategy

While we know peer evaluation will help increase student accountability and autonomy, I think the most valuable outcome of peer evaluation is the retention strategies it has to offer students. According to a study of applied cognitive psychology conducted by Aloysius Wei Lun Koh, learning-by-teaching is proven effective when teaching involves the retrieval of taught materials. This way, students may manifest the teaching effect (1) during the evaluation stage, where students retrieve the information previously remembered to teach others through the feedback they provide.

Encouraging Future TA's through Kritik

When students use Kritik for their courses they will fully absorb and interact with the material of the course. By providing constructive assessments and measuring feedback students develop the necessary evaluative skills for teaching assistant role.

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  1. Ideas and Strategies for Peer Assessments. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://isit.arts.ubc.ca/ideas-and-strategies-for-peer-assessments/
  2. Cho, Kwangsu & MacArthur, Charles. (2010). Student revision with peer and expert reviewing. Learning and Instruction. 20. 328-338. 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2009.08.006.
  3. Brown, C. (2017, May 16). 7 Tips For Peer And Self-Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2017/05/18/peer-assessment/
  4. Learning by teaching others is extremely effective – a new study tested a key reason why. (2018, May 4). Retrieved from https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/05/04/learning-by-teaching-others-is-extremely-effective-a-new-study-tested-a-key-reason-why/

Navinaa Sanmugavadivel
Education enthusiast