A meta-analysis of 21 studies concluded that using assessment rubrics for formative learning can be effective for improving performance and self-regulation by increasing transparency, reducing anxiety, and encouraging reflection.
Howell Jackson, James S. Reid Jr. Professor of Law, experiments with end-of-semester exams and writing assignments to create opportunities for meaningful, formative feedback through skills practice, reflection, and peer collaboration.
Jelani Nelson, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, assigns students real programming problems in his introductory algorithm courses, CS124 Data Structures and Algorithms and CS125 Algorithms & Complexity. Students write and test their coded solutions to practice problems via an open server on the course website and receive immediate feedback on their work.
The benefits: According to Nelson, programming problems increase students’ understanding of computational theory by helping them practice algorithm design methods such as the divide and conquer technique. In addition to the retention benefits, the course server software offers scalable instruction practices including automated grading and more efficient management of deadline extensions.... Read more about Real problems: Teaching theory through practice
A literature review contends that formative feedback—information communicated to the learner that is meant to modify their thinking or behavior in order to improve learning—should be objective, timely, and specific. Certain variations of formative feedback (e.g., delivery, complexity) will be...
Bernhard Nickel, Professor of Philosophy, engages students in his introductory College courses about the “hidden curriculum”—defined here as the social and disciplinary norms often invisible to both students and the teaching staff, including expectations about class preparation, in-session focus, respectful discussion behavior, and the role of feedback.
The benefits: Addressing the hidden curriculum explicitly in class surfaces and dispels student assumptions about conduct (for example, concerns that discussing a paper with the instructor during office hours is cheating) that often cause poor academic performance but cannot be solved with narrowly academic feedback.... Read more about The hidden curriculum: Engaging students on another level
Logan McCarty, Director of Physical Sciences Education, and Louis Deslauriers, Director of Science Teaching and Learning, adopted an active pedagogy for a large introductory physics course and saw significant gains in student learning and attitudes. Assessment played a role every step of the way.
The benefits: By explicitly stating the course learning objectives and designing complementary in-class activities, they created effective feedback loops – the activities helped students assess their own understanding, and according to McCarty, “more importantly, the instructors got feedback on how students are learning.”
The challenges: Defining course learning objectives can “feel awkward. It feels artificial. And the value is not immediately apparent,” McCarty admitted. “But it is essential for creating effective assessments.”
HILT grant recipient Beth Altringer (SEAS) discusses her team-driven course “The Innovator’s Practice” which involves students in a continuous creation and feedback cycle as they pursue the development of entrepreneurial ideas.
Jon Hanson, Alfred Smart Professor of Law, saw an opportunity to improve learning by putting students in the driver's seat. Along with Jacob Lipton, JD ’14, he developed The Systemic Justice Project (SJP) – a policy innovation collaboration, organized and catalyzed by students – as a problem-oriented, team-driven, and experiential approach to courses in legal education.
Grading and feedback are among the most powerful ways in which teachers communicate with students. They are interconnected tools for teachers to express what they think students should be learning, and for helping students make progress toward those goals......
One randomized study showed that students assigned to receive compliments preferred this experience to those assigned to feedback designed to enhance performance, despite the fact that students in the latter group performed distinctly better.
When Dr. Keith Baker, Associate Professor of Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Anesthesia Residency Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, gives medical residents feedback, he emphasizes a “learning orientation” (where the goal is mastery), rather than a “performance orientation” (where the goal is validation of abilities).
Karen Brennan, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, designs her syllabus for T550: Designing for Learning by Creating to not only communicate the plan for the course, but to introduce students to the course culture.
The benefits: Her use of quotations, images, and color appeals to the various ways that we engage with text, and gives students (many of them future instructors themselves) a glimpse of their upcoming course experience. Drawing on other forms of expression expands the possibilities for communicating the aspirations and intentions for the course.... Read more about Communicating course culture: Beyond the syllabus