Melissa Renfrow: Power of Peer Assessment in Community Colleges

Prof. Melissa Renfrow was hesitant to implement online peer assessments for her courses at her community college because she wasn’t sure if her students would participate. Since she was teaching her class online and gave students the flexibility to watch the recording based on their convenience, she wasn’t sure how motivated they would be. She was pleasantly surprised with the rise in engagement and the improved quality of work when she ran activities on Kritik. 

Prof. Renfrow astutely points out that community college students typically include non-traditional learners who experience different life situations than full-time university students. Therefore, additional support is often required to keep them engaged. With Kritik activities,  she found that the structured 360-degree peer assessment method helps foster writing and critical thinking skills that enable them to be successful in their work.

 “Using Kritik for peer assessment of essays in my courses, I could see first-hand how my students were developing deep learning of concepts, higher-level reasoning, and essential soft skills.”

4 Best Practices for Implementing Peer Assessment in Community Colleges

Teaching a first-year English course, Prof. Renfrow runs several essay writing assignments. Since she was adding a layer of peer assessment, she built the following best practices for successful implementation:

1. Creating Supporting Rubrics

Prof. Renfrow designs a 4x4 rubric for her English 102 course, which involves developing an argument and research paper writing. Her rubric criteria include: thesis, support development, and grammar mechanics.

She also has access to the huge collection of customizable rubrics on Kritik that easily aligns with her courses to strengthen peer assessments. Using structured, rubric-based peer assessment in Kritik augments understanding and critical engagement with community college students.

2. Setting Expectations through Calibration 

Prof. Renfrow also loves the calibration feature on Kritik since it aligns student grading with the instructor’s grading and expectations. She usually runs a few calibration activities before scheduling the first peer assessment activity.

Keeping the instructor’s assessment as the gold standard, students evaluate the essays based on a rubric and all evaluations are compared against this. The AI underneath the platform assigns a Grading Power (1-6 stars) that reflects students' ability to comprehend their peers’ work and give helpful feedback.

3. Norming Assignments Using Calibration

Prof. Renfrow perceives that a major hindrance in providing objective feedback for essays is that ideas are open to interpretation unless the instructor guides the students with a clear learning objective and other instructions. Instructors can use the calibration feature to teach students to write critical and helpful feedback to their peers. 

Learning to write constructive feedback based on the given rubric enables students to stick to the structure and the goal of the assignment while staying accountable for their peers’ growth. Norming assignments using rubrics prevents over-marking or under-marking during peer assessment and ensures effective grading practices in community college settings.

4. Modeling Evaluation and Feedback

Prof. Renfrow highlights the significance of modelling what a strong evaluation looks like for effective peer assessment. She also models the language of written feedback through activities and discussions with her students. The language of feedback is expected to be respectful, professional, and positive, even when delivering criticism.

Prof. Renfrow feels this is especially important in community college settings where students’ relatively lower grasp of vocabulary and preponderance of colloquialisms may often cause disputes in peer assessment. She lauds the spotlight feature in Kritik, where the instructor can point out a particularly strong peer evaluation, allowing peers to comprehend what effective assessment looks like and improve as evaluators.

Download the full recording and deck from Prof. Renfrow’s workshop.

How does the 360-degree Feedback loop on Kritik Benefit Students?

The 360-degree feedback loop on Kritik enables students to assess the quality of evaluations they have received from their peers. This enhances accountability in peer assessment. Using Kritik benefits students by fostering critical thinking skills, soft skills, and the art of providing constructive feedback.

Here is a glimpse of the stats of one of Prof. Renfrow’s classes:

Course data for Professor Melissa Renfrow

Here’s an example of how she uses peer feedback for her assignments:

Activity 1: Rhetorical Analysis Essay

The first activity in Prof. Renfrow’s English 102 course requires students to write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay based on a video shared in class. In this activity, students are expected to develop a thesis that analyzes the effectiveness of the method(s) of the assertion made by the speaker in the video.

The objective of the activity is to gauge students’ comprehension of methods of appeal (logos, pathos, ethos) used in argument writing and the application of the writing process for the development of a rhetorical analysis essay.

Each student is expected to evaluate three essays anonymously using the provided rubric to give critical and motivational feedback. In their feedback, students must explain why they marked the essay as they did. This increases accountability and prevents disinterested and superficial feedback. Here’s an example of an evaluation:

Peer evaluation for an essay in Professor Melissa Renfrow's english course

Peers find such detailed feedback both effective and motivational, as is evident from the recipient student’s feedback (see below) on the previous peer feedback. This creates a holistic learning environment and improves learning for community college students.

Peer feedback example from Professor Melissa Renfrow's english course

How Kritik Assists with Peer Learning

Peer learning is a great way to encourage students to do better as they learn by evaluating. Evans (1999) suggests that computer-mediated communication often enables community college students to build camaraderie. Further, Evans (2004) reports the effectiveness of peer review in building trust among community college students, as well as its ability to strengthen overall learning.

Prof. Renfrow provides a rundown of the precise ways in which Kritik has assisted peer learning in her courses.

  1. Reduces Grading and Administrative Burden: Prof. Renfrow mentions how her students hardly required any assistance using Kritik as they could easily set up their profiles and begin using the platform. All she needed to do was familiarize the students with her rubrics and conduct calibration activities. 
  2. Creates Meaningful Student Engagement: Since peer assessment is gamified, it keeps students engaged and eager to provide feedback. Prof. Renfrow was thrilled when she observed that peer reviewing through Kritik phenomenally enhances classroom participation in usually apathetic community college students.
  3. Fosters Soft Skills: Kritik ensures that peer assessment is a collaborative learning activity for students as they learn to work together, review each other’s work, and provide feedback. Getting multiple opportunities to practice these skills helps students develop their critical thinking and become job-ready.
  4. Shifts Focus to Mentoring and Coaching: The League for Innovation in Community Colleges stresses the importance of mentoring in encouraging community college students to stay in college and continue with their education until they accomplish their goals. As Kritik economizes the instructor’s grading time, it allows them to focus on their mentoring role and have wide-ranging conversations with their students.
  5. Allows for the Exploration of Ideas: Continuous engagement with multiple peers’ work throughout the semester enables students to experience diverse perspectives. This exposure to multiple ideas and ways of approaching an assignment is essential to a deeper appreciation and mastery of the skill of essay writing.

Prof. Renfrow shared the following data on how Kritik enabled her students to improve their essays with continuous peer assessments and feedback over the course of the term.

Statistics from Professor Melissa Renfrow's course showing student improvement

Prof. Renfrow was able to enhance her students’ essay-writing skills through the use of detailed rubrics and a collaborative 360-degree peer feedback loop. Kritik’s AI-driven peer feedback system kept her students engaged with the assignments and improved the quality of their writing.

If you are curious to know how Kritik’s peer assessment may be implemented in your course, feel free to set up your free account and create the first assignment for your students.


Evans, R. (1999). Serving modern students in a modern society at the community college: Incorporating basic technological literacy. T.H.E. Journal: Technological Horizons in Education, 27(3), 102-08.

Evans, R. (2004). Preparing to teach online. Academic Exchange Quarterly, winter issue, 8(4), 244-247.

Paulus, E. (2015). Student Mentoring in Community Colleges. League for Innovation in the Community College.

Melissa Renfrow
Melissa Renfrow
Metropolitan Community College

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