Quiz Correction Assignments


Students typically don’t take the time to learn from their mistakes on quizzes and exams, but there is a huge learning opportunity just sitting there. We can get them to learn by having them look critically at their own mistakes on quizzes and exams, and of course attach some marks to it so that they will actually do it. Quiz correction assignments benefit the students in two ways. First, they reduce student frustration by allowing them to earn back some of the marks that they lost on a quiz. Second, they provide the students with a learning opportunity by encouraging them to look at what they did wrong on the quiz, and to reflect on the thinking that led them to their wrong answers. This post will discuss quiz correction assignments and why I like them, and subsequent posts will discuss student opinions of the quiz corrections and discuss evidence for the effectiveness of these quiz corrections as a learning activity for the students.

What are they?

I first encountered the idea of quiz correction assignments in the summer of 2009 at PERC09 [1] during a targeted poster session. The poster  [2] was presented by Charles Henderson (Western Michigan University) and Kathleen Harper (Denison University), and there is also an article in the Physics teacher [3] by the same authors. Harper and Henderson’s implementations of the quiz correction assignments differ from one another. They also differ from the original implementation, by Bob Brown at Case Western Reserve University, upon which their implementations are based. My implementation was most similar to Henderson’s.

For the 2009-2010 academic year, I gave a 10-20 minute quiz each Friday in my introductory calculus-based physics courses. The questions on the quizzes were the same type and difficulty that the students would encounter on their term tests and final exam: conceptual multiple-choice, explain your reasoning (University of Washington Tutorials), short calculation, and end-of-chapter-style problems. I would “correct” the quizzes over the weekend and return them on Monday. I say “correct” because I didn’t need to give any feedback on their answers other than a mark with a very brief justification for the mark since it was their job to sort out exactly what they had done wrong. I would post the solutions to the quiz on the same day that the quiz was written so that they would have these solutions to help them with their assignment.

By completing the quiz correction assignment they would earn back half of the marks that they lost. So a 60% would become an 80% after quiz corrections. This was an all or nothing mark, and I would occasionally have to ask the students to redo the assignment if they wanted to earn the mark.

The quiz correction assignment consisted of two steps, which were taken directly from Henderson’s implementation: Diagnosis Phase and Generalization Phase. In the Diagnosis Phase they were expected to identify what went wrong in their answer. In the Generalization Phase they were expected to learn from their mistakes by identifying where they had gained deeper physics understanding through the process of correcting their mistakes. Typical student responses for each of the phases were two to three sentences per phase per question answered incorrectly. As with any type of assignment, some students did the minimum possible to earn the marks and some students seized the learning opposrtunity, thought deeply about their own thinking, and tried very hard to put their thinking into words

For silly mistakes such as forgotten units or obvious math mistakes, I didn’t expect them to write anything more than a very short sentence explaining what they did wrong. I was equally lax on egregious sig fig issues, but upon reflection realize that they should really be doing a good job of the two phases for sig fig issues.

Why I like them

My biggest reason that I like the quiz correction assignments is that they (try to) get the students to learn from their own mistakes. And this (learing from their own mistakes) is a thing that very few of even the most dilligent students will do.

Second, based on my observations the student stress associated with the quizzes is greatly reduced. Most students failed at least one of the quizzes, but they did not appear to find this too stressful. Instead they knew that they could turn any failing grade into a passing one by completing the quiz correction assignment. And when a student made what they perceived to be a silly mistake, they seemed to laugh it off instead of trying to endlessly barter to get their marks back.

Third, there is less total marking for me since the students do the hard part of explaining their own mistakes. I just identified the mistakes on the original quiz and handed them back and then checked that they did a decent job of setting themselves straight on the quiz correction assignment.

Future Posts

I am planning on one or more two more parts to this post. I will discuss student opinions of the quiz corrections and discuss evidence for the effectiveness of these quiz corrections as a learning activity for the students. The student opinions will be a summary of the feedback that I solicited from the students on the quiz corrections via a “minute paper”, a few sentences written on an index card and handed in anonymously. I’m still playing around with the data that I have to determine if I have any good evidence for the effectiveness of the quiz corrections.

For the second term there was a group component to the quizzes and these group quizzes were administered using IF-AT (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique) [4], a scratch and win multiple-choice sheet that lets students instantly know if they got the correct answer. The students would rewrite the quiz with their table-mates after handing in their solo quiz. The group quizzes and the IF-AT will be discussed in a future posts (Update Sept. 1, 2011 – My post discussing group quizzes and the IF-AT can be found here).


[1] PERC09: http://www.compadre.org/per/conferences/2009/

[2] Poster: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~chenders/Publications/Henderson-HarperPERC2009Poster.pdf

[3] Henderson, C. & Harper, K. A. (2009). Quiz corrections: Improving learning by encouraging students to reflect on their mistakes. The Physics Teacher, 47 (9), 581-586.

[4] Epstein Educational Enterprises: http://www.epsteineducation.com/home/about/default.aspx

Note: References [2] and [3] are from Henderson’s publications page (http://homepages.wmich.edu/%7Echenders/Publications/Publications.htm)

Bribe the students (with marks of course) to sit down and figure out what they got wrong and look at what

actually look at what they got wrong and figure out how