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Using AFL/SBL to Analyze a Common Assessment Practice: Earning Back Points on a Test

Use your knowledge of Assessment FOR Learning and Standards Based Learning to analyze the following very traditional assessment practice.  Discuss your analysis with your group and leave your thoughts as replies to this discussion.


After her students take a major unit test, a teacher allows her students to write correct answers to the questions they missed. After they turn in these test corrections, the students will earn back 50% of the points they missed on the test.

Some possible topics to consider/discuss: 

  1. How is/isn't this practice in line with the concept of assessment being for the purpose of increasing learning?  Does it increase learning? Could it be improved?
  2. How does this practice impact the desired outcome of learning being elevated over grading?
  3. What is the value of the feedback students receive from this activity?
  4. What do you see as "pros" of this activity?  What do you see as "cons"?

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The practice of allowing students to complete test corrections may be used to increase student learning IF the work completed is done with the intention of having students identify, understand, and improve areas of weakness and not simply to earn points.  The intention of the assignment must be clear in order to meet AFL goals.  If the goal of the assignment is learning and not points, the assignment could be used as a part of their preparation for a second assessment of similar learning objectives or as a way to ensure students are ready to move to the next step.  The value of having students correct mistakes/ the "pros" is that students take ownership of their own learning by understanding their mistakes and correcting those errors.  In addition, corrections provide unique and personalized feedback for students about what they need to study.  It is important to follow-up with additional assessments ("looping") to assess progress in weak areas.   

Amy Rookstool, Robyn Harless, and Justin Halterman agree.

Our group's response:

Making corrections should lead to re-assessment of the material.  Corrections alone do not reflect mastery.  

It doesn't assess whether or not they know the material, but it could help them learn it. The biggest issue is if they are going to be retested, or see the material again. If they are not, then it doesn't really accomplish the goal of increasing the student's learning, instead, it just gives them a grade. If they are tested on the material again, then it can be used as a tool to help the students assess what they knew and what they did not know and this can increase their learning. 

-Science Department

Allowing students to complete test corrections can be used to increase student learning, but only if the students have to assess what they missed, why they missed it, and state what the correct answer should have been.  Simply choosing another multiple choice answer without explanation does not aide in student learning.

I prefer to do multiple tests on each standard in my class.  This allows me to spiral back through previously taught material.  It allows all students to continue practicing their skills, instead of being content with their score on one standard and then never working on that until SOL review time.

A "pro" of this activity is that students will be exposed to their mistakes and have a chance to recognize their errors. A "con" of this activity is that, often times, students are just trying to get a certain percentage added to their original average instead of actually learning from their mistakes.  

I used to do this in class, but I found that students would only work on a few of their errors and do a minimal amount of work to get to a satisfactory percentage.  They weren't truly learning from their mistakes.

Test corrections can be used as a prerequisite for retaking a specific assessment. Thus, test corrections are an important practice component, but the new test is a more valid reflection of their knowledge of the given topic.

Getting back 1/2 of the lost points is really just playing the numbers game.  I suggest finding another way for the student to demonstrate that they have learned it.  Someone at my table suggested using the test corrections for the student to review before retaking the test.

Even if the practice is to increase/improve learning, there is disparity in how grade can be improved.  For example, the student who earned 90% first time around, can improve to a 95%, but the student who earned 20% the first time around, can only improve to a 60%.

1. I think that it is good for the students to know what they missed specifically however I don't think that giving them 50% of their grade back for just answering the question correctly right after.  However it depends on if they have a book or notes or the obvious answer somehow sitting right in front of them then is it really assessing their knowledge or is it assessing how well they look up the correct answer from their notes?

2. I think that its important to give specific feedback and this is a good way to do it but I would use another test on a different day to give them the option to show their level of knowledge of that specific standard.

As a whole, our group believed that not much relearning actually takes place in that scenario. We believe in point redemption - to a degree- when student has been asked to revisit the material, invest time in working to relearn the material, and then given the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in a new assignment that assesses the same material. This is labor intensive for both parties but productive.

I second all that Jenn said.  But I would also add that corrections CAN be useful when students must identify WHY they missed it.  However, I do not assign points to it.  Rather, I make completing detailed corrections a requirement for retaking the assessment.  I assign points to the assessment and even allow it to replace the poorer grade.

If forces students to identify mistakes without going over a test and giving the student the answer. It could give a false sense of learning if the student is missing most of the questions and earning a majority of the points back on corrections. Student could be receiving help on corrections which is not assessing individual learning. Students could become reliant on correction points and fail to put in the necessary work to study the material before the test. 

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