CritViz.com is a free online tool I created with my research partner Loren Olson. It started as a small-scale experiment in my "Learning Installations" research group at AME where we asked a simple question:
Formal critique is an important teaching tool for us. In many of our classes, student work cannot be entirely graded on objective criteria. Normally in these situations classes arrange critique sessions to provide direction and feedback to students, raise their level of performance, and teach them to give and receive constructive criticism. Critiques usually work best in classes small enough to sustain a single discussion. In the Digital Culture major, we routinely have active, hands-on classes with 75 or more students. It quickly became obvious that running effective critiques at this scale was a big challenge. This led to a bigger question:
CritViz is web-based software designed to help university instructors implement peer review in online and in-person classrooms, particularly with class sizes that would otherwise be impossible. A critique, (or “crit”) well known to art and design classrooms, is a specific format for peer-review where the focus is on generating formative peer support, rather than on summative peer “grading”. Research has shown that giving peer feedback can benefit learning as much and often more than the receiving of feedback.
CritViz was designed with the premise that students can benefit greatly from the practice of giving and receiving critical feedback from peers, and that this is true not only for classes in the arts and design, but in almost any class on any topic. Studies have shown that not only do students perform better under peer review but they exhibit increased higher level skills, increased intrinsic motivation, reduced anxiety, and better self regulation. This can hold especially true in project based classes where the work produced by students is project-based, complex, collaborative, and creative.
Peer assessment, peer review, and peer tutoring are by no means new in education. In fact they have been employed in various ways for hundreds of years, and today are not uncommon in higher education. However, there is still no general agreement about what kinds of peer review feedback is most helpful and why. While the “why” may be elusive, many studies indicate that peer assessment is of adequate or high reliability in a variety of settings, in many cases better than the reliability of instructor assessment. In addition peer review has shown positive formative effects on students attitudes, behavior and motivation.