Formative Assessment: Abort, Retry, Fail?

Two can play this game

Something of a response to Simon’s June 1 post on transitioning from pedagogical theory to teaching practice: he wrote, in part, “assessment is always formative and should be always linked to the feedback and adaptation process.” In theory, I agree. In practice, while I can lead students to feedback, I am still unable to make them read it.

As I’ve written before, the Canvas LMS has a “student viewed” time stamp feature that shows whether a student looks at my feedback on an assignment — my comments and a tabular rubric with cells that I’ve highlighted — after I have graded it. Generally, though, given the lack of time stamps, many students simply ignore this information. An example, with data: my annual spring semester course on comparative politics. In 2018 and 2019, I taught this course in the physical classroom. In 2020, the latter half of the course was online because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, the course was delivered online for the entire semester. For each iteration, I tallied the number of students who looked at the first three, the third to last, and the second to last reading responses after I graded them. Results are below. N is number of students in the class; not every student in a class completed every assignment. The eyeball columns indicate the how many students viewed an assignment after I had graded it; the eyeball with a slash is the opposite.

While I can understand students not bothering to revisit assignments that they earned full marks on, I don’t understand why students who earn less than full marks frequently ignore information that would allow them to do better in the future. Anyone have an explanation?

2 Replies to “Formative Assessment: Abort, Retry, Fail?”

  1. I hear you and share your frustration. My take on the students’ not looking at the qualitative feedback is our system encourages them to work for grades, not learning; they are trained to do work that is required (the assignment), not work that isn’t required (looking at feedback); and, they don’t understand how looking at the feedback could help them learn more AND get better grades. I have experimented with this, too. I found leaving audio-comments for my students in our LMS had a higher rate of students at least clicking into them. (Who knows how they engaged with them?) Also, I integrate metacognition activities and require students to write a paragraph how they incorporated comments from a previous assignment into their new work. Next time, I will have them complete this BEFORE the new assignment is due so they can’t do it retrospectively.

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