Using Kritik to Save Time and Address Dwindling TA Hours

Using Kritik to Save Time and Address Dwindling TA Hours

Dr. Jeff Boggs (LinkedIn), is an Associate Professor at the University of Brock teaching courses focused on Geography. Well versed in his trade, Dr. Boggs is also interested in conducting contract research or collaborative applied research for non-profits and other organizations in media industries (or the cultural economy more generally) in Canada (especially southern Ontario), the US (especially southern California or upstate New York) or Germany.

An avid believer in student empowerment, Dr. Boggs has written for the Globe and Mail describing the lack of information regarding opinions of unprepared students for the workforce. Dr. Boggs uses Kritik to improve his students critical thinking ability, and also how to ensure they are accurately evaluating each other to save him time.

What challenges did you have in the past with your students?

The main challenge that I faced before implementing Kritik was the workload associated with grading. Our department did not have enough funds to allocate to an appropriate number of TA's for my classes. For the TA's that were hired, they had limited hours and we struggled with providing feedback that was helpful to students. This hindered my ability to give students graded homework on class preparation assignments. It is essential for students to do their assigned readings so they know what the lab or class I'm teaching is about; not knowing the material before class can make the class a trainwreck.

Institutions of higher learning carry a high cost. Rising tuition costs, government subsidies, grants, donations, etc. are apparently not enough to give professors free reign over the number of TA's they need for their courses. Universities across North America are cutting budgets and revamping their workforce to address tuition raises. By bringing in more contract instructors at reduced wages and limiting TA hours, Professor Boggs relied heavily on Kritik to ensure his students received high-quality feedback without burdening his TA's.

How do your students evaluate each other?

I am a big believer in rubrics; they harmonize everyone's expectations on an assignment. Kritik's features include pre-built rubrics for any type of activity you plan on assigning, so I use those and tweak them to ensure that they apply to my class' learning objectives. I also really appreciate the feature where I can save and upload rubrics that I've used in prior activities, this shaves off so much time associated with class preparation from week-to-week.

Research has demonstrated that students are more likely to succeed if they have input in the rubric creation process and if they have access to the rubric before they start the assignment. Kritik's rubrics tend to be exhaustive for topics like essays, lab reports, problem sets, etc. to ensure that professors have different options when assessing their students.

Has Kritik's implementation delivered positive results for your students?

It's too early on in the semester to determine whether Kritik has made an impact on my students. Ideally, I would like to compare the grades from my stats course this semester to classes prior and see if Kritik helped. My gut feeling is that Kritik is helping my students, as I'm getting less questions along the way that I'm used to in the class. The students are very well prepared for class discussion due to their Kritik activities, which has been incredibly encouraging.

As online learning and accessibility to education improve, universities are feeling the pressure to deliver a "higher quality" education to their students. The disconnect between a student's expectation of a university's ability to prepare them for a job and the university's actual role in preparing them continues to grow in distance. As technology continues to intertwine itself within education, students are finding cost-effective alternatives that can better prepare them for their futures. Universities are recognizing this, and are constantly trying different ways to develop opportunities for students to develop skills that will help them in their future careers. Unfortunately, budget cuts and cost minimization are allowing only a select amount of students the opportunity to take part in these skill development jobs, events, opportunities, etc. Kritik ensures that every student are able to develop the skills necessary to provide, receive, and revise upon feedback, which will surely prepare them for their careers better than an exam or an essay.

Professor Boggs knows all about the struggle that students face in terms of preparation for the workforce. With reduced TA hours and students disengaged by remote learning, Professor Boggs uses Kritik to ensure that his students are able to feel the elements of peer interaction when learning from home, at their own time and pace. Professor Boggs' Geography students are able to come to class more prepared with a discussion mindset and learn how to effectively critique their peers.

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Jeff Boggs
Jeff Boggs
Brock University
Associate Professor