Conducting Labs Online Through Kritik

Kritik for Online Lab Sessions

Dr. Patricia Chow-Fraser is an ecologist interested in studying the effects of human activities on aquatic and semi-aquatic ecosystems, using ecological indicators, remote sensing, GIS analyses, and radio telemetry. Dr. Chow-Fraser has been a professor of biology at McMaster University for over 28 years, so she knows a thing or two about teaching effectively.

Professor Chow-Fraser uses Kritik to conduct weekly lab sessions with her students. The students are able to work independently and in groups and submit their lab work, but the learning of the material takes place in the Kritik evaluations and feedback. Students are able to see how their peers responded to the same tasks in the lab, compare their work processes and develop their evaluative skills.

The transition to online learning has affected each discipline differently, but STEM courses have felt it in a way that other courses haven't. It is inconceivable to expect a lab session with hands-on materials and learning to be conducted at the same efficiency in a virtual setting. Students are going to disengage with the online lab sessions, if professors are not explicitly focusing on ways to make the class better. Dr. Chow-Fraser opted to have her students submit their lab work online before the transition to remote learning, and her students have adjusted well. It is this type of preparation and open mindedness that enables professors to tinker with technology in the class, and find solutions to problems they didn't know they had.

How do you innovate your lab and class sessions every year?

I always like to try new things. New things are the way that you innovate, and being an early adopter allows you to see innovative methods first. I always feel like that there is a better way to do things. The best way to teach is to follow somebody around and watch what they do, and that lends itself to 1-on-1 teaching. Obviously you cannot do that when you have 250 students in a classroom, however the closer you can get to 1-on-1, personalized teaching is my philosophy. Kritik allows me to do that by enabling students to provide and receive personalized feedback.

Iteration is essential for you and your students' development. The stresses of a tenure-track position brings a demanding workload to your position, but your student evaluations are very important. The feedback you receive from your students (through your school or even ratemyprof) will shed some light on some areas of improvement for you and your class structure. Yes, students are incentivized by grades and can provide negative feedback if a course is too difficult. Another large factor for student satisfaction is real world applicability in a course; introducing a tool like Kritik will be appreciated by your students.

What made you want to try Kritik in your biology class?

I saw other testimonials of videos of other professors using Kritik, and why they use it. Having students mark each other on a rubric of whether something is right or wrong is fine for saving time in grading, but that's not really helpful the student. Having a student see how their peers responded to an answer (right or wrong) is where the learning occurs. I customized my rubrics to ensure students are receiving marks for the correct answer, but also receiving marks for their critical thinking ability.

If it isn't broken, why fix it? Traditional pedagogy for biology education is consistent with the lower order thinking skills of Bloom's Taxonomy; remembering the material, understanding it, and applying it on exams. This style of class delivery is the easiest solution when 300 students are in a class; but Dr. Chow-Fraser is an educator who understands the deficiency that this method of class delivery brings. Each students has an individual learning style, and while biology is quite rudimentary in it's course offerings, exposing students to the evaluative nature that Biology provides is an excellent way to prepare them for further biology education and their careers.

Stage Deadline Feature: By choosing when you want your students to submit, then evaluate, and then provide feedback based on the evaluations, you can ensure that students submit their work in a designated time frame (like in a lab session), and then allow them to complete their evaluations later in the week.

What type of professor is Kritik right for?

I would recommend Kritik to professors that care about their course and their teaching. Kritik is essential for professors that are organized and looking for ways to engage their students. I prefer using Kritik as opposed to clickers or other in-class technologies, as they are not effective in actually developing a student's learning ability.

Professor Chow-Fraser is an experienced professor of biology and understands the importance of building relationships with her students. Her small classes thrive on the 1-on-1 relationships she is able to foster, and Kritik enables her own students to practice building those relationships with their peers to enhance their skills.

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Dr. Patricia Chow-Fraser
Dr. Patricia Chow-Fraser
McMaster University
Professor of Biology