Campus: Bellevue College

11. Earn Points Back – Test Assessment

Educator: Zubair Murtaza, Instructor, Engineering
Context: Out-of-class; Engineering
Keywords: engineering, test assessment
Student Activity Time: 1-3 hours

Students have a chance to earn more points on a test by redoing missed problems and writing about their mistakes and subsequent learning.

Introducing the Reflection Activity

While tests are clearly an assessment tool, they are also an excellent opportunity for learning. As tests are returned to students, there is a magic moment when they are checking their scores and examining the problems they missed. Capturing them at this moment when they are receptive and motivated, and giving them the chance to correct and reflect on their mistakes enhances their overall learning. When given the opportunity to not only correct their mistakes, but also to reflect on why those mistakes happened, students better learn the material itself and gain insights into the learning process.

When a test is returned, students are told they have an opportunity to earn back lost points. To earn back these points, they must correctly redo the problems they missed, and must summarize in writing their mistakes and the lessons learned. They have a week to do this, and are aided by discussions in class about the problems and by the ability to talk with (not copy from) their classmates about the problems. This is completely voluntary, but most students take advantage of this offer.

Outcomes for this include an improvement in the student’s grade, an increased understanding of the concepts on the exam, a better understanding of how to learn from mistakes, and increased motivation to learn.

 Recreating the Reflection Activity

Step Description
1 Return exams.
2 Give students the opportunity to earn points back (lost points) through correcting answers and reflecting on their mistakes.
3 Review material in class and allow students to discuss the problems with each other.
4 Collect the corrected exams within a week.
5 Change grades to reflect points earned back (20%-40% of lost points).
In the words of the Educator: Tips and Inspiration

Do some of the work in class. Discuss patterns of mistakes made by the class and where the incorrect understanding is coming from. This helps the students make their corrections and realize why they made the mistakes. Giving them hints for particular problems or even working through solutions in class may be beneficial depending on the circumstances.

Focus on the lessons learned. One of the goals is to allow students to learn material they didn’t learn before the test and have a chance to improve their test grades, but it is also important to focus on student insights. Was the student able to articulate what he or she did wrong and what could be learned from that mistake? Is the student better self-aware of a conceptual misunderstanding versus a process understanding? This is an important part of the process.

What was the inspiration for the reflection activity? I wanted a way to implement a grade curve that inspired learning. This not only gets the students involved and active, rather than the instructor just adjusting the grades upwards, but it also allows the students to gain a deeper understanding of the material and a deeper understanding of overall patterns. This particularly motivates those that made the most mistakes, because they get a percentage of points lost, which keeps them motivated instead of discouraged.


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