Dr. Jonathan Wisco from Boston University dedicates his time to teaching and making an impact in his classrooms as a professor in the department of anatomy and neurobiology. He is also the co-founder of Better Learning Experiences and Visual Representation Solutions LLC. where he provides faculty and clients with resources and solutions to their teaching needs. He shared with us how he found peer assessment and Kritik to be a valuable tool in his classrooms to create a positive learning environment and encourage students to engage with their learning.
You can watch the full recording of the workshop here, and continue reading for highlights of our conversation.
What brought you to incorporate peer assessment into your courses?
“The paradigm of grading, when assigning a point or letter grade to someone’s work, is incredibly difficult. What’s more useful for peers and teachers is to give feedback on someone’s thought process. I had the course design in mind and the philosophy and best practices, I just needed a tool to carry it out.”
Dr. Wisco shares how peer assessment has been a big factor in improving the learning culture and environment in his courses. Not only does it improve the timeliness and quality of feedback, peer assessment has meant Dr. Wisco’s students can be part of the teaching process while building essential teamwork and evaluation skills. This process allows students to learn from their peers and gain new perspectives and understanding of the course material. By learning through teaching others, students develop better communication skills and this provides an opportunity to apply their knowledge.
“My hidden curriculum...is to have my students understand professionalism and concepts of peer evaluation and team learning.” Dr. Wisco shared that prior to Kritik there wasn’t an effective and efficient way to assess these real-world skills. As he notes, he “ran into [Kritik] as a way to solve and improve the efficiency in which I could give feedback and evaluation to my students.”
How does peer assessment benefit student learning?
“Students should be part of the educational process and not consumers of it. Students feel valued when they feel like they’re part of the learning space where everyone is learning from each other.”
Recent shifts in education have focused on changing the way education is measured and delivered to make learning more geared to developing the skills and understanding that directly apply to the real world and help students be successful after graduation. For example, Competency-Based Learning looks to do exactly this by measuring key competencies and progressing students only when the competencies have been met. Recent studies and research into educational models show that there needs to be a shift from traditional teaching methods to a competency or learner-based model in order to set students up for success in today’s society. Peer assessment hones essential and necessary skills that employers look for in the workforce such as critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Starting this process early builds these skills in students and learning becomes a more personalized experience as opposed to focusing on the same learning outcomes for each individual student.
“Many students grow up in a culture where grades are everything and while they are important, they also need spaces in which they can understand their value and help other people feel valued. [Kritik] can be used in any space where feedback is a central part of the course or learning activity.”
The versatility and flexibility of peer assessment in Kritik has allowed it to be used across an incredible range of disciplines and course types. At its core, it’s about having students interact deeper in their work, while playing an active role in the evaluation process applying the ever-important critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills.
How did you set up your course culture to embrace peer learning?
“I do my best to identify the importance of inclusivity. I essentially try to remind kids of why we love to learn. Why are we in school? I instill a culture where I’m not out to get my students through my exams.”
Students really start to see the impact of learning when instructors involve them in the teaching process through peer assessment. Dr. Wisco shares how many students come into a course with expectations of what traditional assessments look like. Formal exams and traditional methods of assessments don’t bring out the best in many students, and further, often don’t reflect the real world environments they will experience after graduation. .
“An experience like [Kritik] where students have a very clear expectation, a rubric, knowing it’s going to be peer evaluation and knowing that I’m going to be reading everything to make sure it’s within a professional realm, really allows them to express themselves and learn that it’s really not threatening at all.”
Peer assessment alone won't build a positive course culture. As Dr. Wisco shared, it's about ongoing dialogue with students, implementing inclusive practice and empowering students to play an active role as both learners and evaluators. That being said, Kritik helps professors take a positive step forward with the structure and support for students to interact and engage deeper in their learning.
Learn how you can set your students up for success in the classroom and beyond and build a positive course culture with Kritik.