Implementing peer assessment to resolve ambiguity and teach universality of writing

Professor Mohamed Rali Badissy joined us from Penn State Dickinson Law to share his experience and insights incorporating tech-enabled peer assessment in his law courses.  As Prof. Badissy shares, his decision to incorporate peer learning with Kritik largely stemmed from wanting to expose his students to real-world learning that will help set them up for success in their future careers. One particular outcome and highlight of Prof. Badissy’s experience using Kritik, was improving students’ resiliency and ability to recognize and resolve ambiguity in their writing. 

“Students were able to build a comfort and resiliency to the act of being criticized and providing criticism. Reflecting on my Kritik experience, I now see that building these skills was even more valuable than what I was able to offer in the past with different teaching strategies and other technology.”

Click here to watch the full workshop recording and continue reading for highlights of our conversation.

How did Kritik help you structure your analytical writing assignments to derive efficient results? 

“Kritik forces students to acknowledge their deficiencies much faster. After just one or two peer review exercises where multiple voices were raising consistent feedback, they were able to realize this and act upon it sooner”

Teaching predominantly in the transactional law space, Professor Badissy was able to structure his activities in such a way that involved a mix of careful analysis and issue identification, while also encouraging the expression of personal opinion. This paved the way for meaningful conversations between students, learning that while an article may have indisputable hard facts, there are still many ways it can be interpreted. 

“The problem I had in a lot of my classes is that my students always want to know if they’re right or wrong. It is like an obsession with law students and lawyers because so much value is placed in being right. But we know this is a ridiculous expectation” 

Utilizing Kritik features such as the detailed evaluation and feedback sections, he helped guide students away from simply attaining the ‘right’ answer, and towards a conversation about the various bigger picture implications that an article may possess. 

How did designing and incorporating a detailed rubric lead to meaningful evaluations from students? 

“The students had not just an insight, but also an empathy that I wouldn't naturally have as someone who is just reading their work and not actually going through the process of writing and analyzing it. The parity between reader and writer provided insights that I wouldn’t have been able to provide myself”

Professor Badissy shared how an unexpected, but welcome outcome of his students’ evaluations was that they provided their peers with valuable commentary and critique on not just the substance of the work, but also the stylistic elements and writing form. 

“Style in the legal world is almost as important as substance, in the sense that you can make the same argument but the one that is presented better is going to be received better”

The peer evaluation process in Kritik helps students realize this first hand by receiving multiple points of feedback from a diverse group of their peers. These peers, as Prof. Badissy shared, pointed out ambiguities and writing clarity, which helped their fellow classmates become more concise and clear in their writing. 

“Students learned an appreciation for the difference of opinion, and started to accept that it is not meant to be demeaning to them, but rather an opportunity to be that much more effective”

How did you manage disputes and challenges within the peer assessment process?

“Even when someone felt they were being unfairly criticized, I actually found myself being closer aligned with those providing the feedback than those receiving it. Meaning it is good feedback, and it is likely what you are going to experience later on, so get used to it now.” 

He describes having emotional conversations with students because the feedback they received on their evaluation reflected that it wasn’t good enough. He mentions that although it was a difficult experience, it was definitely a positive one for the students, as having to accept that their criticism of someone else was not accurate or constructive was a new experience for many of them. 

How did Kritik help you enhance the understanding of real life applications for students?

“One of the most essential skills that a lawyer needs to have is the ability to receive critical feedback and to give critical feedback”

Professor Badissy alludes to the fact that in law, you are always working toward satisfying someone else's expectations. He stresses the concept of universality and learning how to write and structure arguments in a way that allows them to be universally agreed upon by a diverse audience. 

“Students learned that even if they don’t agree with someone's criticism, or don't think their work is ambiguous, that doesn’t really matter as a lawyer. Ultimately, somebody else is consuming that information and executing it.” 

He explains how the feedback you have to get used to hearing in order to become a better lawyer all revolves around ambiguity and learning how to resolve it. In other words, having the ability to recognize that a mistake someone pointed out in your work is still valid, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. 

“This idea of accepting perceptual differences is a very real skill. The constant refinement that happens in practice, and the ability to recognize and resolve ambiguity is a very marketable skill in the field that I am preparing students to enter.” 

Ending thoughts

Professor Badissy has managed to effectively implement Kritik in his law classes as a tool to increase his students' comfortability around key legal concepts such as dealing with ambiguity and universal argument structures.

By preparing them for what they will encounter as professionals, he is establishing a learning environment far superior to that of a typical classroom. We can all take a page out of Prof. Badissy’s book and use it to structure our teachings in ways that reward imperfection and encourage meaningful discussions. 


Mohamed Rali Badissy
Mohamed Rali Badissy
Penn State University
Assistant Professor in the Department of Penn State Dickinson Law

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