Take part in York’s peer assessment pilot project

two computers

This month and next, there are a number of opportunities for York faculty to delve deeper into peer assessment, which involves students giving feedback to their peers based on a rubric provided by their instructor. Faculty can also try out Kritik, one of the online platforms introducing peer assessment into the classroom.

By Elaine Smith

If learning more about peer assessment isn’t on your schedule yet, perhaps it’s time to correct that omission. According to common wisdom, two heads are better than one, and peer assessment is one way for students to discover the value of that maxim – with guidance from their professors, of course.

“We have long known that feedback helps students reach their academic goals,” said Robindra Sidhu, senior research analyst with the Office of the Associate Vice-President (AVP) Teaching & Learning. “Peer assessment is one strategy that course directors are increasingly using to facilitate this.”

Simply explained, peer assessment translates to students giving feedback to their peers based on a rubric provided by their instructor. The goal is to help students produce better work for final submission, whether that means using correct grammar or supporting their conclusions with better evidence.

Peer assessment provides students with a number of benefits, noted Sidhu:

  • the feedback from their peers allows them to make changes to their work as appropriate;
  • students become skilled at giving fair and accurate feedback, and communicate it in a constructive manner; and
  • students have the opportunity to interact and collaborate with their peers, and in doing so have the opportunity to reflect upon their own work.

This month and next, there are a number of opportunities for York faculty to delve deeper into its benefits and to test Kritik, one of the online platforms that they can use to introduce peer assessment into their classrooms. From Nov. 24 to Dec. 8, the Teaching Commons will hold a two-part workshop titled The Peer Review Experience, designed to familiarize faculty with the pedagogy and practice of peer-based learning and to introduce them to the various online platforms available to support them. Meanwhile, the Office of the AVP Teaching & Learning, is inviting faculty members to participate in one of the upcoming onboarding sessions for Kritik, a new peer assessment platform that the University is evaluating.

Yelin Su, an educational developer with the Teaching Commons, says that peer assessment has been used in post-secondary education as an active learning strategy for many years. There is evidence to demonstrate that it is effective in helping students develop critical thinking skills, as well as assisting them in applying the skills they are learning in their courses.

“Many York colleagues are using peer assessment quite successfully, but many more are interested,” Su said. “We have seen this renewed interest due to the pandemic. When faculty were new to online learning, it seemed overwhelming to use an additional technological tool, but after three years of Zoom and eClass, many are ready to go a bit further.

“Currently, York has multiple tools available for free and the TC is there to support faculty in their use. They may need help in setting it up in their course, creating a rubric or deciding how to train students in giving and receiving constructive feedback for learning purposes.”

Sidhu notes that peer assessment platforms like Kritik are simply tools for teaching students, helping them learn to give and accept feedback and to interpret the rubric for evaluating others. They also require thinking more deeply about the course content and “offer a reality check on the quality of their work.” Kritik, for example, tracks students on their skill in creating work, evaluating the work of others and giving feedback. Its features include the ability for students to view each evaluator’s comments and the option of bringing comments to the attention of the instructor if they believe they are unfair. Faculty can also reward students for participating in the evaluation process.

Will Gage, AVP of Teaching & Learning, is eager to obtain faculty feedback on Kritik’s efficacy during the year-long pilot project. “Before we invest significant resources in this platform, we want to spend some time and effort to determine whether it’s effective in enhancing student learning, and also whether instructors derive benefit and find it helpful in their courses.”

Why not be among the growing number of faculty who are engaging their students in peer assessment? Join the Teaching Commons and other faculty to learn more about how to use peer assessment in teaching and Kritik. Faculty can also review the introductory Kritik sessions held at York University in August. YouTube recordings for STEM and for faculty overall are available to view.