Although eLearning can provide personalized responses to students’ work, the grading system is still relatively black and white. After taking an online assessment, a question is either right or wrong, with no response as to what the student should work on to improve in the future. Although we know a response can generally only be graded as correct or incorrect, there is an opportunity for deeper learning to occur through feedback with the right approach. By implementing alternatives to right and wrong, distance education teachers can make the virtual classroom feel more connected, meaningful, and, most importantly, empowering.
These are five alternatives to typical grading systems that instructors can use to develop feedback. Quantity, quality, and delivery are all integral components to a valuable experience for learners. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well or poorly someone does on an assessment if they only take their grade at face value. This guide aims to give teachers the foundation they need to create a continuum of learning in their classroom that doesn’t stop at any grade or exam.
Rather than marking student replies as merely correct or incorrect, delve deeper and provide a response to every question. If they seem to get questions right but lack detail, offer some prompts that would help them investigate what they already know and deepen their knowledge. There are many high-ranking students who master getting good grades but fail to synthesize any of the ideas they’ve acquired.
For those with poor marks, use their wrong answer as a chance to teach them more. Lead with praise; even just an attempt to answer a difficult question is worth acknowledging. Rather than seeing a wrong answer as a lack of knowledge, use it to clarify any misconceptions or bridge gaps in learning. Some learners may not have fully mastered preliminary material, so this could give you a window into their current knowledge base and help them patch any holes preventing them from growing in your course.
Explanatory feedback boosts learners’ morale and makes them feel more supported than corrective models of grading. Although students do need to know when they’re not reaching their objectives, they also need to know where they went wrong and how to grow. This also helps prevent damage to a learner’s self-esteem and preserves their motivation.
Use A Breadcrumbs Method
Rather than having a student struggle to get an answer, offer hints that guide their thought process. This is known as epistemic feedback, but the breadcrumb method is a bit easier to remember, don’t you think? Just like you’d leave a trail to track your steps or guide your path on a hike, this approach uses small clues to help students stay on track when tackling a problem.
Rather than focusing solely on being right, this structure helps students create stronger connections between different ideas and learn about the broader purpose of a subject. They’ll think more about why something is a certain way rather than simply memorizing a desired response. This is also an excellent tool for teachers whose students demonstrate limited prior knowledge and struggle to keep up with their current subject material.
Create Real-World Situations
How often have students walked away from a classroom after a semester or even an entire academic year with little value? So many courses provide an overwhelming amount of information that has little to no resourceful application in learners’ everyday lives. Rather than instruct concepts and theories, you can create hypothetical real-life situations that teach knowledge through experience and skill-building exercises.
Simulations that require participants to assume different roles also create an opportunity for peer-to-peer feedback. By assessing other’s work, learners also reinforce their own knowledge. You can even create a classroom example that allows students to function as the instructor. Teaching concepts they’ve recently learned allows them to synthesize ideas and explore different methods of applying them.
Another major benefit of this teaching style is that the feedback you provide ultimately leaves students more capable of helping themselves in the real world. Consider a math teacher who decides to use real loan calculators to help students explore student loans, debts, and repayments. You can teach them what consolidation means, and how they can merge existing debts to avoid multiple payments. This is all rooted in qualitative reasoning, but it spans beyond formulas and transforms into a meaningful skill.
Make Learning A Game
When students are forced to do the same homework models on loop, they eventually grow bored and stop paying attention to details. To provide feedback that feels purposeful, you can turn lesson plans and assessments into games. An incentive can be included to boost student engagement; it could be something silly, like choosing the teacher’s next hairstyle or a small monetary award like a $25 Amazon gift card or lunch from DoorDash.
Games are more fast-paced than traditional teaching, so the feedback given is ultimately processed more quickly. The nature of games is also repetitive, so mistakes are caught sooner and corrected more rigorously than they would be through traditional assessment. There are times that teachers instruct a class for weeks only to find out at the end of a unit that half their learners didn’t grasp a core concept; making up for this sets the entire course back and leaves those who did understand the lesson bored and under-stimulated in future classes.
Walk through different problems that need to be solved, and use teamwork to provide feedback and reach conclusions. Rather than just watching you work through something, learners are encouraged to discuss the thought process and collaborate on different solutions. As the instructor, you can offer clues by completing a portion of a problem and asking students what they think should happen next. When they’re stuck, add a little more to the board. You can take suggestions they offer and input them to see whether they work; some learners may catch on and begin creating their own work before you even complete a problem. If a problem is solved incorrectly, you can discuss where things may have gone wrong. This creates a circular feedback loop that makes the class more engaging and educational.