Grading by Response Category: A simple method for providing students with meaningful feedback on exams in large courses
The Physics Teacher
Physics | Science and Mathematics Education
As instructors, we want our students to develop a deep understanding of course material, and feedback is essential in their sense-making process. Providing effective individualized feedback to students in large courses is especially difficult. While researcherssuggest,1 and many instructors of large courses are,2,3incorporating interactive techniques that allow peer feedback, studies have shown that it's important for students to also have direct feedback from the instructor.4 Since the requirement for individualized feedback is difficult to meet during class time in large courses, providing effective feedback on exams and quizzes takes on added importance. Some instructors choose to assess their students using open-ended written exam items that require students to demonstrate their understanding of physics by solving a problem and/or explaining a concept. Because grading these items can be time consuming, the challenge is to develop an approach to grading and provision of feedback that is both efficient and effective. This paper describes Grading by Response Category (GRC), an effective approach to evaluating assessments that provides feedback to students, improving the learning process for both students and teachers by encouraging students to reflect on their thinking and giving instructors information on student difficulties. GRC is a method of grading quizzes and exams utilizing good feedback practices that is especially suited for large courses because it can be done within a time period similar to traditional grading. As we describe the GRC process, we examine the benefits of the GRC method in the context of Carol Evans's recent review article and resulting “Principles of Effective Assessment and Feedback”5 (Table I). When we describe a feature of GRC that aligns with Evans's findings, we indicate the principle it exemplifies by its number listed in Table I. Finally, we provide an example of the GRC feedback provided to students and discuss student reception of the GRC process. Table I. This table includes a partial list of the “Principles of Effective Assessment and Feedback” from Evans 2013. Evans organized the principles into “themes” as indicated by the letters a-e. For the sake of brevity we chose not to define those themes, and instead we label each principle in the theme with a Roman numeral that refers to the order in which it is listed in the Evans paper. Table I. This table includes a partial list of the “Principles of Effective Assessment and Feedback” from Evans 2013. Evans organized the principles into “themes” as indicated by the letters a-e. For the sake of brevity we chose not to define those themes, and instead we label each principle in the theme with a Roman numeral that refers to the order in which it is listed in the Evans paper. a-ii Methods of assessment and feedback are constructively aligned with learning objectives. a-vi Feedback informs the process of learning, encourages reflection, and focuses on the self-regulation level. Guidance is explicit in relation to requirements of the b-i assessment and what quality is. It demystifies the assessment process through use of exemplars, modeling aspects of good practice, clarifying assessment criteria, and giving clear signals about good practices. Feedback enables development of self-assessment skills. Feedback is not so detailed and specific that it scaffolds the learning so completely that the students do not think d-ii for themselves. Feedback is accessible to the learner, for example, provided in conjunction with the learner having sufficient knowledge of how to be able to use feedback effectively. e-i Feedback is appropriate to the purpose of the assessment task and level of student understanding. Feedback focuses on the specific features of the task. It e-ii focuses on the what, how, and why of a problem rather than simply indicating to students whether work is correct or not. e-iii Feedback focuses on performance. Feedback provides suggestions on how to improve rather e-iv than focuses on the personal attributes of the learner. e-v Feedback identifies actions including strategies to enable the student to improve. e-vi Feedback involves an equitable dialogue between student and tutor to clarify meanings, expectations, misconceptions, and future actions. e-vii Feedback encourages positive motivational beliefs, self-esteem, and trust. The GRC method was developed at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) for use in 300+ student active-engagement introductory physics courses.2 It has been in use for over 15 years, and is currently being used by dozens of instructors at UC Davis and other institutions. GRC is used to assess exam items that require students to reveal their thinking, often by drawing diagrams or writing explanations, as well as those requiring calculations. Once student quizzes or exams are collected, an instructor follows the steps outlined below to implement the GRC method.
Cassandra Paul, Wendell Potter, and Brenda Weiss. "Grading by Response Category: A simple method for providing students with meaningful feedback on exams in large courses" The Physics Teacher (2014): 485-488. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4897587
This article was published in The Physics Teacher, volume 52, issue 485, and is also available at the following link: https://doi.org/10.1119/1.5025286