Alex Gainer (LinkedIn), Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, passionate about helping people learn economics and particularly enjoys being the first person to introduce students to the economics discipline. As a recipient of the Faculty of Arts Teaching Award, Professor Gainer knows how to teach effectively. Kritik is used in his economics classes to develop and nurture their curiosity for economics, and Dr. Gainer explains why Kritik addressed an issue that his LMS could not.
Dr. Gainer prides himself on wanting to be the professor that introduces economics to first and second-year students. Due to extenuating circumstances, first and second-year university students are coming into economics without the aid of face-to-face learning. The silver lining of online learning will be that students are exposed to asynchronous learning. The hope here is that students will be able to encourage to learn independently and at their own pace, which Kritik integrates well within.
Why did Kritik appeal to you and your course?
I always thought that creating questions was an excellent way for a student to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. Kritik makes it so easy for students to share their questions with their peers; students are now able to see other questions that their peers create, and they learn different perspectives on their work.
Traditional classrooms require that students do readings before class, and the professor will frame the lecture around the material the students learned. It is no secret that the majority of students are incentivized by grades, and professors often offer small quizzes to ensure that students are reading their material. The hope here is that a student will do their readings because of the grading, and be prepared for the discussion in class related to the material. This is a fruitless attempt, and professors should know better to prepare a student for in-class discussion. Professor Gainer utilizes Kritik to prepare his students for their lectures, but also to prepare his students for a discussion mindset. Seeing how students respond to the same material with their own questions is a powerful method of demonstrating understood concepts.
Why did you choose Kritik as opposed to your school's LMS?
My university’s LMS did not allow me to ensure that my students were grading each other accurately, and they were not putting the effort into their evaluations. I really liked how Kritik is structured to steer my students in the right evaluative direction. The Evaluation Score allows me to track how strong of an evaluator a student is, and how they compare to the rest of the class.
When you are writing your papers, do you use Microsoft Word's bibliography tool, or do you use EndNote for your peer-reviewed sources? Both tools perform the same task of organizing your peer-reviewed sources, but EndNote is the superior tool by comparison. Just because your school's LMS offers a tool, it is not an excuse to stop looking for better ways to optimize certain elements of your class.
How do your students feel about using Kritik?
I was quite surprised at how vigilant my students were in evaluating each other, and how serious they are towards Kritik. Students seem to enjoy the personalized feedback that they receive, and they are getting better and better at using Kritik as the term progresses. In the first two weeks, I would spot check their grades to ensure they were evaluating each other accurately, but as they improved, I did not need to check on them.
Trusting your students is essential for their own success. While the outliers from classes prior have tainted your perception of your students, it is important to not draw comparisons between classes of students. Each new group of students offers different perspectives, and Professor Gainer was pleasantly surprised to hear how his students respond to issues in their peers work. You understand at a fundamental level how important providing and responding to feedback is after your undergraduate degree, and tools like Kritik want to ensure that students have the opportunity to develop those skills. By introducing opportunities like this, we have seen professor's student reviews increase, as students appreciate the effort that professors put forth towards giving them skills that will help them after their post-secondary journey.
Dr. Alexander Gainer is always looking for ways to engage his students. It's this type of instructing effort that led to Dr. Gainer receiving the Faculty of Arts 2018 Contract Teaching Award. Kritik has enabled Dr. Gainer to ensure his students are more prepared for their economics lectures by creatively reflecting upon their readings, and staying in that mindset to cultivate strong in-class discussions. His students very much appreciate the effort he puts into developing their critical thinking ability. Don't believe us? Check out how appreciated Dr. Gainer is on his students' reddit page here.