by Jessie Key, Teaching Faculty Member, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Technology, VIU
As an instructor, it is really frustrating and disappointing when students receive back a marked assessment (Quiz, Test, Report etc.), look at the grade and then shove it directly into the back of their backpack; never to see the light of day again. The hours of careful marking, writing helpful comments or explanations can seem almost a waste. More importantly, students are ignoring valuable feedback, which may allow them to improve their understanding and their grades on future assessments.
To address this problem I have included Post-Assessment Reflections (PAR) in my CHEM 231 and 232 organic chemistry courses for each quiz and test. The PAR is essentially a quiz I have placed in D2L that they can complete on their own time. It asks them specific questions about their performance on the quiz, and what they plan to focus on to improve in future assessments. Questions can be general in nature and reused in subsequent PAR’s, or very targeted and specific to a particular assessment.
A typical set of questions for a PAR in CHEM 232 S2014:
Were the types of questions on the quiz what you expected?
With what type(s) of questions did you do well?
With what type(s) of questions can you improve?
What do you plan to do to improve for the next quiz or exam?
Do you have any other comments or questions regarding the material covered in this assessment?
I make each PAR available for only one week (using restriction settings in D2L) after handing back a marked assessment, which encourages students to look over their assessment immediately. This way they can institute changes to their study habits sooner than later. After reading student PAR’s, I try to follow up with those who indicated they want additional materials, or further explanation. I think I surprised a few students, when I emailed them to schedule an office hour appointment or to provide additional study materials the day after they wrote their comments.
To motivate students to complete the PAR’s I gave them a total combined weighting equivalent to one of the quizzes in the course (2% of their final grade). ‘Grading’ can be performed manually for short or long answer questions, or you can set D2L to automatically mark multiple choice questions and export the quiz into the grade book. I mark the PAR as ‘Complete’ or ‘Incomplete’ and have found that most students do complete it. However, you can certainly tell that some students put less than a desired amount of effort into their reflections. Some students also try to perform a PAR without actually having shown up to class (or to my office) to receive back their marked assessment. To circumvent this, I inform students that no credit will be given without having their assessment in hand – it is really difficult to reflect on your own performance when the assessment is sitting on the instructor’s desk.
Surprisingly some students also see the PAR it as a convenient forum to complain. Perhaps, this is due to the perceived anonymity of writing comments online. The complaints that I have received this year are similar to typical student comments in course evaluations. The complaints range over many topics such as the lecture material, the pacing of the lecture, or the difficulty of the assessments. The most common complaints are often contradictory between students – for instance some expressing that the lecture course is going too fast or too slow, or that a particular assessment was too easy or too hard.
Despite the drawbacks listed in the previous two paragraphs, I do feel it is a useful exercise. It encourages students to reflect and take ownership on their studies, and provides valuable regular feedback to me as an instructor.
Further information on setting up quizzes or the grade book can be found on the VIUlearn Wiki: