Using Scientific Research to Increase Academic Performance

Student assessment
There is no secret formula that will improve academic achievement for students. If it had been there it would definitely differ by faculty.The purpose of this article is to lay out theories which have actually worked; real studies that are directly achieving results.

Leveraging the Science of Bloom's Taxonomy

Students reaching higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) are able to achieve higher grades. HOTS is widely known for application in STEM-related courses, such as how students conduct analysis of problem sets in mathematics courses [4]. Bloom's Taxonomy is a learning concept that classifies educational goals so as to foster higher-order thinking skills [1]. The progression of elements centers around the domain of cognition.

According to Krathwohl, Bloom's revised taxonomy is a hierarchy of learning elements starting with remembering, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation and creation. The learning pyramid together will enable students to engage in a cognitive process where they build their skills to ensure that learning is properly scaffolded [3].

Blooms Taxonomy

How does Bloom's Taxonomy apply to your course structure?

To apply Bloom's Taxonomy to a real-life application, Kritik's gamified online peer assessment tool allows students to earn 'Kritik points' to showcase their strength as a peer assessor. The Evaluation score combines how well you were able to assess a peer's evaluation (based on rubric criteria laid out by the professor) in comparison to how the rest of the students evaluated the same creation. In addition, the Kritik system is able to determine how effective the feedback you provided was from a critical and motivational standpoint. We have found that after administering 5-6 activities on Kritik, students generally increase their Evaluation score points total. Through our research and feedback so far, we’ve found that students who adopt a “Learning by Teaching” mindset are able to retain course concepts more efficiently and effectively. This loop of consistent and increasingly quality feedback throughout the term is leading to students becoming more engaged with their work. Also, the comments and feedback allows for students to improve on their own creations, ultimately leading to higher class averages.

Graph of student performance

Food for thought

  • What level of Bloom's Taxonomy do your current assessments fall into?
  • On which aspects of the pyramid does your course heavily focus on?
  • Do your assessments allow for clear and accurate tracking of student progress, and facilitate increases in quality as the term progresses?

To integrate the science behind Bloom's taxonomy it is important to construct feasible course goals. Higher-level goals relate to applying concepts whereas a lower-level goal would be more of remembering a definition or filling in multiple choice questions [3]. Binding both goals together is the bridging goal, where a concept must be understood.


Lower-level cognitive task: Remembering [3]

e.g When asked, the learner will list all six levels of Bloom’s a revised taxonomy of learning.

Green - Criteria  Red- Condition Orange- Performance

In Action

A study conducted at the University of Papua focused on the relationship between HOTS and Mathematics for student academic performance. Their research method consisted of testing 41 final year mathematics students within an hour to complete 9 HOTS-related questions and be assessed by a holistic rubric [4]. Critical thinking questions included conceptual understanding,  prediction of impacts, comprehending principles, problem-solving and decision-making. While creatively thinking on how they could work within a competency limit was assessed, new challenges were addressed and their thinking patterns merged with their imagination. The evaluation of the questions consisted of reviewing the understanding of problems, the problem-solving procedure and the correct answers. According to the regression analysis model developed, the GPA value was expected to increase by 0.017 units for every one-unit increase in HOTS [4]. It was concluded that the relationship between HOTS and the students' GPA was linear, positive, and strong [4].

The Effect of Assessing vs Being Assessed

An interesting question arises: Can peer review be used as a tool in your classroom to increase students HOTS? Peer review integrates the teaching concept of learning which is the most effective way of retaining information and knowledge.

A study at the University of Barcelona focused on assessment and evaluation of higher education in order to determine whether giving or receiving feedback was more efficient [5]. To draw up a written paper on which to give feedback a graduate class was put into groups behind the study. Students submitted and completed a survey based on their learning experience [5]. Using a survey that incorporated research indicators analyzing the relationship between the cognitive learning and the development of discipline-related academic skills, they found that students as evaluators gained more from their experience and had a greater impact on assignment and knowledge transfer to future tasks [5].

Students who adopt a "Learning by Teaching" mindset are able to more efficiently and effectively retain concepts of a course. This loop of consistent and increasingly high-quality feedback throughout the term leads to more engagement with their work among students.

In the Kritik creation stage (which is the initial phase of an activity or assessment), students are encouraged to understand the instructions and rubric evaluation criteria so it is clear how to approach a problem. However, by assessing peers' work, students need to actively analyze the submission in order to identify errors and implement new ways to further simplify the work of their peers to help them get the correct answer. Moreover, they can engage further in HOTS by reviewing other creations by re-evaluating their own methodology to solve the problem. By providing peer evaluations, students encompass a learning by teaching mindset, encouraging students to analyze and evaluate the course concepts and knowledge to create submissions that meet the assignment's expectations.

How to Optimize Peer Assessment in Your Classroom

Not sure how to integrate peer assessment into your work? Some of our very own users of Kritik, Professor Alex Gainer and Jeff Boggs, saw that reading-related activities helped students better engage with their material. Readings can usually be passive but students can further increase their performance through an interactive lecture prep.

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  1. Ion, G. (n.d.). Giving or receiving feedback: which is more beneficial to students' learning? Retrieved from
  2. Krathwohl, D.R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy: An OverviewTheory into Practice, Vol. 41, No. 4, Revising Bloom's Taxonomy(Autumn, 2002), pp.212-218, Ltd.Stable URL: .
  3. Parsons, J., & Surridge, L. (n.d.). Retrieved from Support/LTAT2016-Using Blooms Taxonomy to improve student learning outcomes and assessment.pdf
  4. Benidiktus, T., Jeinne, M., & Gaguk, M. (n.d.). The Relationship between Higher Order Thinking Skills and Academic Performance of Student in Mathematics Instruction. International Education Studies, 10(11), 78–85. Retrieved from
  5. Ion, G., Martí, A., & Morell, I. (2019). Giving or receiving feedback: which is more beneficial to students’ learning? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(1), 124–138. doi:

Navinaa Sanmugavadivel
Education enthusiast