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Assessment of Student’s Confidence of Learned Knowledge

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Understanding Our Students I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.232.1 - 25.232.12



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Paper Authors


Kyle B. Reed University of South Florida

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Kyle Reed is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He performs research on human-robot interaction, rehabilitation robotics, haptics, medical robotics, and engineering education. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2001, his master's (2004) and Ph.D. (2007), both in mechanical engineering, from Northwestern University and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University. More information on his research can be found at his research lab website:

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Assessment of Student’s Confidence of Learned KnowledgeAn important skill for students is to recognize how well they actually know the answers to real-world questions. Students may get the right answers on quiz questions, but may not be sure oftheir answers and may get similar questions wrong. Confidence in one’s answer or design is nottypically important during undergraduate schooling, but is vital in a job and in graduateeducation where the confidence students have in their solutions is nearly as important as thesolutions themselves. The method described here helps students learn by making them assess theconfidence they have in their answer and also serves as a metric by which the instructor canevaluate the possibility of students applying the material to similar questions.Students in an undergraduate senior level Mechanical Engineering semester-long course wereinstructed to indicate their confidence level on each answer on each of six quizzes. The grade foreach question was based on both their confidence level and whether it was right or wrong. Theattached table shows the credit for each of the four possible combinations of answers/confidence.The worst case is to be confident of an incorrect answer and the best case is to have the rightanswer and be confident in it. Having a correct answer, but lacking confidence, is beneficial, butnot perfectly so. This answer is similar to asking a colleague to double check the work, whichwould hopefully increase the confidence in that work, but still requires the use of someone else’stime. Having an incorrect and not confident answer is similar to simply stating: “I do not know”or asking for help, which is the perfect answer when a person truly does not know; making up ananswer is a very bad habit that is encouraged under typical grading schemes. For this answer, thestudent gets some credit for knowing that they do not know and that they should ask for help.The analysis of the student confidence method is based on evaluating the student’s ability tocorrectly assess their level of confidence. Over three separate semesters, a total of 157 studentswere evaluated. The student’s inherent objective is to maximize the points awarded, thus theirability to maximize their points is the metric. This metric is compared to their overall grade inthe class and is used to identify the students that benefit most from this method. The data showsthat students are generally aware of their abilities and the anecdotal responses from students havebeen very positive. The data also benefits the instructor by indicating where the students arestruggling, even if the students are getting the correct answers. Questions with correct and notconfident answers typically go unnoticed, but under this grading scheme, a quick review of thespecific points where they are lacking confidence can solidify the student’s uncertain knowledge. Table: Points awarded for each combination of correctness and confidence confident not confident correct 5 4 incorrect 0 2

Reed, K. B. (2012, June), Assessment of Student’s Confidence of Learned Knowledge Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20992

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