How to apply Courselets to graded homework and projects?
- problem: homework is supposed to act as formative assessment -- i.e. students' chance to learn the material. However, the main result from Courselets' data about blindspots, is that if a student is blocked in an exercise by a blindspot, that exercise ceases to be formative for that student unless the blindspot is immediately resolved. Homework's typical two-week turnaround time (1 week to due date + 1 week to return grading) does not even attempt this.
- best practice: This catch-22 is solved by a weekly "Mission Training" cycle that creates safety + urgency by eliminating blindspots:
- Monday: introduce the "mission" (graded project) the students have to complete in one week. "Today and Wednesday's classes will give you the basic concepts you need".
- Wednesday: students start "Mission Training" courselet working through how to apply all the concepts to the project. Instructor uses the 10% rule for Immediate Resolution.
- Friday: Mission Training due. By now, all student misconceptions have received Immediate Resolution, and students still have the whole weekend to apply what they learned to solve the graded project examples.
- Monday: graded project due.
- Conventional graded assignments do not fit the learning requirement of safety + urgency. It is only fair to give such "summative assessments" AFTER students have had enough practice on those skills to learn them solidly ("formative assessment"). In most classes graded homework follows directly after lecture, with no such guaranteed-formative training step in between. Apparently, this kind of graded homework/project is supposed to function both as formative assessment (the student's chance to learn through practice how to use the concepts correctly), and also as summative assessment (at least as students perceive it -- the student's grade). These divergent roles are usually incompatible: it cannot be formative unless it provides immediate resolution of student blindspots, but instructors don't want to expose the answer until after the grading cycle is over.
- The Mission Training cycle resolves this paradox by separating the formative assessment ("Mission Training") from the summative assessment (graded project). It even converts the negative effect that grading often exerts on learning to become an essential ingredient for learning (by creating the crucial pairing of safety + urgency).
- The Mission Training best-practice addresses a core dilemma for STEM Disparities, namely that in the presence of unresolved blindspots, providing your class more exercise actually makes disparities worse (bigger) — because only a fraction of students are actually learning from the additional exercises, while the rest are blocked by blindspots.