Making learning accountable

by | 30 Oct, 2018 | 0 comments

This post is part two of two, on approaches used in Arguments, Evidence, and Intuition to provide opportunities for practice and formative feedback to students in the run up to a larger written assignment.

In my previous post I talked about how formative quizzes could be used to foreground misconceptions, and provide opportunities to practice towards a much bigger written assignment. But how do we tie week-to-week learning and formative feedback to support students in completing their assignments?


In the last post I talked about how quizzes with some ‘minute paper’ style questions could help to make learning visible to students and academics. The other part of this approach was to:

  1. Introduce an assignment template, with an appendix component. In the appendix we asked the students to use the same statistical procedures they were learning week-to-week but on a dataset that they chose themselves. Each section of the appendix indicated what they should include, when they could do it by (tied to the weekly quizzes), and what kind of data story each analysis helps us to write
  2. 2 weeks before the deadline, students completed a peer-assessment for the written assignment that involved reviewing the completion of the appendix. This encouraged students to get their analysis done in plenty of time, leaving two weeks to write the report, and an opportunity to discuss the data story they then intended to write, supported by the example data-story paragraphs extracted from the quizzes.
  3. The students were strongly incentivised to complete the appendix because their mark was capped if they didn’t (happily a penalty that wasn’t applied).

The idea of this structure was to:

  1. Make students accountable for using their skills and knowledge to apply a particular set of analyses.
  2. Make learning visible through having these analyses common across assignments, and thus highlighting any misconceptions.
  3. And make really explicit the opportunity that the quizzes and peer assessment provided to practice towards the written assignment, and receive formative feedback.

I’m particularly excited by the second point. Certainly it isn’t the case that all students suddenly understand(!), however, because they had to make an attempt, we have a much clearer idea of where gaps in understanding are. For example, I recently conducted an analysis of a random 25% of the assignments in autumn 2018 and summer 2017. Across both sessions the vast majority of assignments included frequencies/proportions, etc., However, to give an example, only 19% vs 86% included scatterplots in Summer and Autumn respectively, and of those, only 17% and 36% of the uses were appropriate…that suggests that more of the students learnt the skill, and it helped us spot a widespread misconception.

Try for yourself

Here are some word documents you can use if you’d like to try this approach in your class. Access the guide here, and the peer discussion worksheet here.


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