Whitney Sivils-Sawyer: Instructional Design and Peer Assessment

Whitney Sutherland is an experienced educator within the Department of Curriculum Instruction and Leadership from Louisiana Tech University. Within her Instructional Technology course, Prof. Sutherland prepares pre-service teachers to achieve success in their future career paths. 

One important aspect of Prof. Sutherland’s course is introducing learning technology to her students and helping them feel comfortable implementing learning technology in their own future practice. Prof. Sutherland uses the Kritik platform to facilitate meaningful connections between students and to prepare students to be strong evaluators while embracing tech-enabled peer assessment. 

In addition to teaching pre-service teachers, Prof. Sutherland also coaches other faculty to make the most of learning technology in their courses and how to adopt new teaching strategies that take advantage of these digital tools.

We sat down with Prof. Sutherland to understand her experience with peer assessment with Kritik, what she felt her students gained, how she introduced the platform to her students, and what she looks for when implementing new technology in her courses.

What do you look for when selecting learning technology to enhance learning and teaching?

“I consider what my students are going to learn and how I want to teach them and then I find the tool that fits that.”

As Prof. Sutherland shared, it’s important to consider the learning outcomes of a course and the teaching strategies of the professor. Every professor comes with a unique approach to teaching. It’s important that the learning tool is the right fit with the flexibility to adapt to development both with student learning and with the instructional design from the professor.

In Prof. Sutherland’s case, her decision to use Kritik was driven by wanting to enable deeper and more frequent student collaboration that translates into meaningful teaching and learning opportunities with her students. 

Was there any specific aspect of Kritik that stood out to you that made you want to incorporate it into your course?

“I’ve used other peer assessment technologies in the past but the thought of a peer assessment system [Kritik] with algorithms built into it where we can have data pulled to see the feedback loop was incredibly valuable.”

Kritik presents a unique opportunity not often found in peer assessment. That is the ability to gain valuable insights into student learning both anecdotally by observing and engaging in student conversations and also through metrics that indicate progress across the stages and from one activity to the next.

“By allowing students to give and receive peer feedback, I’m giving them extensions on their learning too.”

From a student learning perspective, the use of peer assessment with Kritik allows them to easily share their ideas and see how their peers presented their work through both giving and receiving feedback. With Kritik, Prof. Sutherland’s students could extend their learning beyond the classroom with an opportunity to develop a specific skill - evaluating. The skill of evaluating becomes increasingly important when her students step into their own class as independent teachers. 

What types of assignments did you implement into your course and how did Kritik promote deeper student learning?

“Two of my assignments, learning objectives, and learning planning, go hand-in-hand. In the first assignment, students choose three technology tools to review, and they are given a well-written lesson plan to insert new technology in meaningful ways. They then use the technology tools they reviewed in the first assignment to develop their lesson plan in the second assignment in Kritik.”

The incorporation of two assignments that are designed to build off one another, fosters a learning environment that encourages the development of ideas amongst students within peer assessment. In Prof. Sutherland’s course, the first assignment allowed her students to become familiar with the types of technology available to educators. The second assignment allowed her students to take the peer feedback they received in Kritik about technology tools and apply it to their curated lesson, ultimately creating a deeper understanding of the course concepts. 

“My students had a lot of great ideas to add to the lesson planning assignment. Using Kritik allowed the students to easily share their ideas but also see what other students were doing with their lesson planning and how they were integrating the technology”

With Kritik, students experienced multiple approaches to lesson planning by viewing and evaluating their peers' work that can help them improve and evolve their own plans for future assignments - and more importantly for their future practice as teachers. 

How did you use the calibration activity in Kritik to reinforce the development of strong student lesson plans?

For context, a calibration activity in Kritik serves two main purposes. The first is to create a baseline for students’ evaluation abilities, which can help the professor plan future assignments, and provide the appropriate support for students who may need some additional coaching. The second is to provide a valuable learning opportunity for students on both what the peer evaluation process is like and what to look for as strong work in a particular learning context. This also presents an opportunity to create an additional point of exposure for students’ learning.

“I chose to do my calibration activity based on a lesson plan where I wrote three examples as they would see later within the lesson planning assignment. I was able to reinforce the content through the calibration activity before they had already begun working on their own lesson planning assignment.”
“The calibration activity allowed students to see a not-good example, a pretty good example, and a great example. They were already able to know how to score the assignment and what I’m looking for in the rubric. Kritik has been great in giving them multiple points of feedback that weren’t just me.”

By using the calibration activity in Kritik, Prof. Sutherland was able to more closely align her students’ grading with her own for a more accurate and effective peer assessment process. Prof. Sutherland’s students also became more familiar with the content which allowed them to deliver a stronger lesson plan in the subsequent assignment.

“They were already able to know how to score the assignment and what I’m looking for in the rubric. Using it in Kritik has reinforced all of these concepts I’ve been teaching and that they have been missing for so long.”


Embracing the powerful tools of technology in the classroom is the future of course delivery. Prof. Sutherland provides great examples of how she guides the next generation of educators to not only welcome the use of technology but shows us how to leverage its capabilities with the use of Kritik and peer assessment.

To learn more about how Prof. Whitney Sutherland has improved student learning through peer assessment with Kritik, watch the full conversation recording here.

Whitney Sivils-Sawyer
Whitney Sivils-Sawyer
Louisiana Tech University
Technologist & Professional in Residence

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