By Alec Fehl, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2016 Essentials and Your Digital Foundation
Learning to Walk
Do you remember learning to walk? Neither do I. Perhaps it went something like this:
Tried to stand up. Fell down. Tried to stand up. Fell down again. Did this for several days. Was finally able to stand. Tried to take a step. Fell down. Tried another step. Fell down. Bumped my head. Cried a little. Tried another step. Woo-hoo! Did it! Tried a second step. Fell down. Repeated process until I walked.
That may not be the exact sequence, but I bet it’s close. I learned by getting a lot of do-overs, and I know this didn’t happen:
Tried to stand up. Fell down and said, “Oh well…I’ll just try to move on to running.”
Why a Do-Over?
Do your students get one chance at an assignment, receive a grade, and then move on to the next assignment? Most of my students worked that way. Get a C and never look back. My students would fail to master concepts if their end goal was simply a grade.
How do educators address this?
With the current education system, we must find a way to balance facilitating learning with the administrative requirement of assessing, tracking, and rating progress.
I’ve had success in my classes by offering “virtually unlimited do-overs.”
How to Do a Do-Over
To begin, I give assignments with an initial due date. I assess these initial submissions and give detailed feedback, commenting on what’s good and what needs improvement or completion. Here’s the kicker: If I leave feedback, the initial grade is zero. Rather than give a letter grade or percentage, I label the assignment “complete” or “not complete.” My feedback indicates exactly what’s needed for me to consider the work complete.
And my feedback comes with a 48-hour deadline extension. They resubmit within the timeframe and the process repeats: They get more feedback, a “not complete” rating, and another 48 hours to work. This continues until the student either completes the assignment (100%) or misses a deadline and the incomplete rating (0%) sticks.
Benefits of Giving Do-Overs
- I focus less on determining a grade and more on giving relevant feedback.
- Students learn revision skills, how to accept critique, and other soft skills.
- Students work, to some degree, at their own pace.
- Students are motivated to improve from their mistakes, creating a mindset of lifelong learning.
- Students benefit from formative assessment as they work through mistakes and are more likely to achieve concept/skill mastery.
While this may not be the perfect system for every discipline, I have used a more detailed version with great success in my classes for almost 30 years.