In education, the value of formative feedback declines as stakes go up.

It’s a matter of efficiency.

Notes from faculty meeting

These are my notes from a faculty meeting, written on Post-Its and capture with the very handy Post-it Plus app.

Note 1 (clockwise from top left)

A very wet commute into the early morning meeting.

Note 2

At the end of the day are we assessing how well students perform or how well we deliver a program? For a great illustration of the difference see the Benjamin Zander video after the jump (this is one of the best examples of great teaching I’ve ever seen and well worth the time to watch the whole video.)

Note 3

We were holding small group round table discussions on providing feedback to students and my table got caught up the problem of assessment and feedback (which we took to mean formative assessment.) We made two unsettling observations:

  1. Written feedback is relatively ineffective in the IB Diploma Program. You need to have 1-on-1 time to discuss your written comments or students don’t pay much attention to it. Without that conversation, students seem only interested in their raw scores.
  2. The perceived value (or at least interest in) formative feedback declines as students move through the three levels of the IB program.

We suspect this is a result of the intense pressure the students feel to get high marks when they are in the Diploma Program for despite its intentions otherwise, the Diploma Program is a de facto marks-driven program. (The phenomenon might appear in other university prep programs and so it may be university entrance requirements, not the IB as such, that are creating the problem.) As a simple matter of expediency, students just want to know if the answers they give will be right or wrong when the tests come around and summative assessments do that more efficiently than formative feedback. Once I had a very bright student say to me, “Mr. O-C, I’m an IB student, I don’t have time to think. I just need to know the answers so I can prep for the test.” We’ve also noticed that our senior students are not that interested in peer feedback. This is likely because the quality of peer feedback is poor (we haven’t taught students how to evaluate their own work) and so peer feedback is even worse at meeting the efficiency requirement. But even if it was good, we were wondering would peer feedback also run into #1 and #2 above.

Is anyone else seeing this phenomenon?

Note 4

If students think of formative assessments as small problems to “mark as resolved,” like comments on a Google Doc, then that might be an indication they are taking formative assessment seriously.


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