The effects of formative feedback on student learning in science education

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Educators always strive to modify their instructional strategies in the hopes to improve student critical thinking skills and discover better teaching practices. As a teacher, one aspect that I have focused on is the feedback that students are provided on formative assessments. Current research indicates that students benefit from prompt, detailed feedback to improve their learning. For my action research, I investigated the effects of different feedback methods on formative assessments in a high school biology course. The purpose of this study was to identify the relationship between these different formative feedback models and the resulting summative assessment scores. This research also evaluated how these different methods impacted student engagement, student motivation, and efficiency for teachers. During three consecutive units of study, different methods of written feedback were administered to students on formative assessments. During the initial, baseline unit students were provided with simple, teacher-generated evaluative feedback. This include standard grading practices with answers being marked correct and a score. The first treatment method provided students with teacher-generated descriptive feedback. This feedback included comments or questions to elicit students to think and reflect on their answer. During the second treatment unit, students created their own, descriptive feedback. While a formative quiz was reviewed during class, students used a separate color pen to write their specific notes and details to self-assess and advance their learning. The data from summative scores for each unit was then analyzed and compared to identify relative student growth. Student surveys and interviews were conducted to gain additional perspectives on the topic. The results of this study qualitatively supports that students' benefit from detailed feedback to redirect their learning and address misconceptions. These comments can be teacher or student generated. It appears to be best practice employ a variety of feedback methods to increase student engagement in the feedback process. When students create their own feedback, it decreases the amount of time needed to return an assessment and saves the teacher countless hours of grading. This research has led to enriched educational practices and student learning in my classroom.




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