How the Circuit app harnesses the power of peer-review to help students learn

Larry DeBoer knows that writing assignments help his students develop critical thinking skills – but he also knows that grading assignments from the 400 students in his course could take weeks. Larry DeBoer, professor of agricultural economics

So instead, the agricultural economics professor harnesses the power of peer-review with help from the Circuit app.

Circuit, developed at Purdue, allows faculty to create peer-reviewed assignments in a variety of formats, including rich text, images and video. Reviews can be conducted using a point-based scale or rubric. An optional calibration feature helps measure student review accuracy compared to the instructor, and is used to give students a more accurate assignment score.

DeBoer will talk about his use of Circuit as part of Innovative Learning’s Tech Today series at 11:15 a.m., Friday, February 7, in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center, Room 3148. Innovative Learning developers will also be presenting updates on new features recently released in Circuit. The series is open Purdue faculty, graduate students and staff. Register via the course website.

In his large lecture courses, DeBoer says he uses Circuit to facilitate four writing assignments in which students are asked to critically evaluate an article. For each assignment, the students not only write their own paper, but they must also assess and grade the essays of three anonymous classmates using a rubric developed by DeBoer.

“The grading process for students actually helps reinforce those critical thinking skills, as they have to think not only about what they’ve written, but also what other students are saying,” says DeBoer.

But how do you keep students from just giving each other high marks?

DeBoer relies on Circuit’s calibration feature, which has students evaluate three essays penned by the instructor – a good, a mediocre and a just plain wrong version – to assess a student’s evaluation skills. For the actual assignments, Circuit then uses those evaluation scores to give the better evaluators more weight in an assignment’s final grade.

“Sometimes students will ask how a fellow student can be expected to grade their essay when they’re not the subject expert,” says DeBoer. “But I tell them, when they have a job in the real world, and they’re writing a memo for their boss, their boss won’t be the subject expert either. It’ll be their job to make sure they know what they’re talking about, and to think critically about their writing, to convince those that they’re working with.”

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: January 28, 2020