I’m excited to announce that I am contributing a chapter on assessment and feedback for the upcoming book, Amplified Learning: A Global Collaborative!
The book has quite an interesting concept: Each chapter begins by capturing the experiences of the contributing teacher through vignettes and examples before transitioning into the supporting research on a particular topic (e.g., engagement, collaboration, teaching math, etc.). It is shaping up to be a book that can be used both by new teachers to develop expertise around technology-enhanced teaching, and veteran teachers who are looking to dive deeper into the research literature.
I did quite a bit of reading as I wrote my chapter, and there are five research articles that feature prominently in the chapter that I’d like to share with readers here because I think they have the potential to improve your thinking around assessment and feedback practices.
Something that is often overlooked in teaching, but which is absolutely critical to getting assessment right, is that there is a fundamental difference between learning and performance (Soderstrom & Bjork, 2015). Performance is what teachers observe in the short-term immediately after something is taught, and it is a poor indication of whether learning, or a persistent change in long-term memory, has taken place. In my experience, it is quite common for teachers to test if students know something immediately after instruction, only to discover a few weeks later that students’ grasp of the skill wasn’t as durable or flexible as they’d hoped. This article compels us to space out assessments over time and regularly check for understanding through a variety of short-cycle formative assessments in order to ascertain long-term learning.
Article 2: The Secret of Effective Feedback
The “secret” of effective feedback is that students must be given time to grapple with provided feedback and actually use the feedback for something. If students don’t think about the feedback in some way and there is no change that happens inside of the learner as a result of feedback, it was largely a waste of time (Wiliam, 2016).
Article 3 and 4: Focus on Formative Feedback and Effects of Teacher and Peer Feedback on Collaborative Writing in an Online Learning Environment
Now that we’ve gotten out of the way that feedback should prompt a reaction out of the student, such as eliciting thinking or altering their future behavior, what does the research say about what the most effective feedback looks like? The unsatisfying answer is that there is not one hard and fast rule for what constitutes highly effective feedback. Something that works today for Student A may not work for Student B in a different situation. With this caveat in mind, feedback that is high in information; that which addresses the “what,” “how,” and “why” of aspects of a student’s performance, but without overloading the student (Shute, 2007); and which involves the learner in an epistemic dialogue, is likely to be more effective than feedback that is unidirectional and low in helpful information (such as right or wrong corrections; Guasch et al, 2013).
Article 5: Effects of Temporary Mark Withholding
Of all the articles here, this may be the one that is the most “out there”, but it’s been on my mind quite a bit as I’ve become the unofficial grading “czar” at my school. Most schools require teachers to issue grades of some sort. In online gradebooks, teachers usually pair grades on assessments with descriptive feedback. But what happens is that the mere presence of grades can interfere with students’ engagement with the feedback. If a student gets the grade they want, they won’t read the provided feedback so closely, or at all, and if a student doesn’t get the grade they want, they might not engage with the feedback because they’ve lost hope. This last article compels teachers to leave grades blank in the gradebook, and only to issue grades when the student has engaged with (and been changed by) the feedback.
Stay tuned for more updates here and on Twitter about the book Amplified Learning: A Global Collaborative.
– Zach Groshell @mrzachg
Guasch, T., Espasa, A., Alvarez, I. M., & Kirschner, P. A. (2013). Effects of feedback on collaborative writing in an online learning environment. Distance Education, 34(3), 324–338. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2013.835772
Kuepper-Tetzel, C. E., & Gardner, P. L. (2021). Effects of temporary mark withholding on academic performance. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 147572572199995. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475725721999958
Shute, V. J. (2007). Focus on Formative Feedback. https://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/RR-07-11.pdf
Soderstrom, N. C., & Bjork, R. A. (2015). Learning Versus Performance: An Integrative Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 176–199. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691615569000
Wiliam, D. (2016). The secret of effective feedback. Educational Leadership, 73(7), 10–15.