Student participation in and perceptions of regular formative assessment activities

Swinburne University of Technology
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education - The Profession of Engineering Education: Advancing Teaching, Research and Careers, 2012, pp. 1 - 10
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BACKGROUND The benefits to student learning from participation in formative assessments have been reported by many educational researchers and scholars. This literature reports improved engagement when students see formative activities as being highly relevant and valuable for their learning. However, many academics still report that students are reluctant to participate in a learning activity unless it contributes some marks to their final subject grade. PURPOSE The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact on learning of undertaking a series of out-of-class formative learning activities. In addition, for the students that undertook these activities, we are interested in why they chose to participate and what, if any, learning benefits they experienced from participating. In regards to the students that chose not to undertake the activities, we are interested in their reasons for not participating. We are also interested in investigating the impact on students of scaffolding the learning activities used throughout the semester. DESIGN/METHOD For the Autumn 2012 offering of Engineering Mechanics, out-of-class formative learning activities were designed for four topics in the syllabus. These activities required the students to read the relevant section of the textbook and subsequently answer multiple-choice questions provided online including entering comments to explain their chosen answer. While there were no marks allocated to these activities, the instructor did allocate more time in lectures to the material related to questions with the largest variation in responses. Students who answered the online questions could log back on at the end of the submission period to compare their responses to the instructorâs answers and reasoning. At the conclusion of the semester students were asked to complete a survey consisting of both closed and open-ended questions to investigate their perceptions of the effects of the online activities. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the closed responses to this survey and also to determine if there is any significant correlation between participation in the formative assessment task and subsequent performance in summative assessment tasks in this subject. RESULTS The results show that the majority of students in the class did not undertake all of the activities. The results also indicate that students that participated in 3 or more activities scored, on average, almost one grade increment higher than those that participated in 0 or 1 activity. In addition, increases in the institutional student feedback survey results for the subject indicate an improvement in student perception of the learning experience compared to the previous semester. CONCLUSIONS Students who participated in the formative assessment activities in this subject benefitted in terms of their learning which was suggested in the final summative assessment task. These results and what we learnt about studentsâ motivation to participate will be used in future semesters to demonstrate to students the link between participating in the formative activities and scoring well in the summative tasks. We argue that making this link explicit and scaffolding the learning activities are the keys to improving students motivation to learn.
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