Circuit peer review tool can help students develop “critical thinking skills”

When Barbara Gibson began teaching online, she knew she wanted a way for her students to connect like they were in a face-to-face classroom, where student interaction can lead to increased understanding.

Gibson, the assistant department head for Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says the peer-review tool Circuit – developed at Purdue by Innovative Learning’s Teaching and Learning Technologies – has created the opportunity for her students to learn from each other and improve their own educational outcomes.

“The attractive thing about Circuit, besides just doing the peer review, is that it affords an opportunity to have more interaction between students, since we don’t meet face to face,” says Gibson. “I’ve actually had students leave comments on course evaluations saying this course has more engagement than most of the other online classes they’ve had.”

Circuit, which is used in both face-to-face and online courses at Purdue, allows instructors to assign peer-review opportunities in a variety of media formats, including rich text, images and video.  Reviews can be conducted using scores or rubrics. An optional calibration feature helps measure reviewers accuracy compared to the instructor, and is used to more fairly assign peer review groups.

Since its launch in 2018, Circuit’s use has steadily climbed on campus, and the educational team behind its development has added new features and modified others as it has received feedback from students and instructors.  The team is currently seeking additional feedback from instructors who have used Circuit and those who might be interested in using the tool. Click here to take the survey and help improve Circuit.

Gibson says she loves Circuit’s ability to handle multiple formats, as it has helped expand students’ horizons regarding how information can be presented. In her 100-level geography class, students can choose the method for one of the peer-reviewed assignments, such as writing a paper, creating a pictograph or producing a video.

“This class has all these people from different academic backgrounds,” says Gibson. “By doing peer-review with Circuit, students are suddenly having to view something in a format they might not have ever thought of before.”

Gibson says Circuit helps make peer-review easier for her to facilitate, and easier for her students to navigate and, ultimately, learn. 

“By having the rubric right there in front of them, it helps students realize what they need to emphasize in their own assignments, and really helps develop the critical thinking skills as they do peer review,” says Gibson. “They’re not just regurgitating facts or checking off a list of requirements. They have to understand and synthesize what other students are saying, and hopefully, be exposed to viewpoints that they weren’t even aware of.”

To learn more about Circuit, or other teaching tools available for instructors at Purdue, visit

To request more information about Circuit, including a one-on-one consultation to determine if the peer-review tool is right for your course, email

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998, 

Last updated: October 7, 2019