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Can Students Self-Generate Appropriately Targeted Feedback on Their Own Solutions in a Problem-Solving Context?

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Course Design, Course Projects, and Student Perceptions in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Carl R. F. Lund University at Buffalo, SUNY Orcid 16x16

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Carl Lund earned a B.S. from Purdue University and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, both in chemical engineering. He worked at the Exxon Corporate Research Labs prior to joining the faculty of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University at Buffalo. He is currently a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department and the chair of the Department of Engineering Education.

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A well-established principle of learning is that “goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback are critical to learning” [1]. In a problem-solving context, appropriately targeted feedback will cause students to reflect upon and analyze their thinking at the time they solved a problem leading them to identify knowledge and skills they were missing, misconceptions they held and points of misunderstanding of how to integrate their knowledge and skills to formulate a solution. In a large course, it can be tedious and time-consuming to provide feedback that fulfills these requirements. This study is examining the use of homework wrappers as a means by which students can self-generate appropriately targeted feedback on their problem solutions. As used here, homework wrappers are follow-up assignments wherein students are asked reflect upon their solution to a problem, write an analysis of their thinking at the time they formulated their problem solution and identify knowledge and skills they were missing, etc. Student scores from a chemical reaction engineering course, taught for over 30 years by the same instructor, were analyzed. Prior to the use of homework wrappers in this course, feedback on student problem solutions consisted of grading the problems (marking points where errors were made) and posting a correct solution. At the 99% confidence level there was no difference between the exam scores of students who completed 90% or more of the homework and students who did not. In the years after homework wrappers were introduced in the course, exam scores of students who completed 90% or more of the homework were 14.5 points (one and one-half letter grades) higher than those who completed less than 90% of the homework. Having demonstrated a correlation between homework wrapper use and improved exam scores, current efforts are directed toward determining whether there is a causal relationship between the two. The analysis is complicated by the fact that in addition to introducing homework wrappers, the grading of homework assignments was changed from being accuracy based to being effort based. The effects of wrappers may be confounded with effects of the grading change. Two critical questions are being considered: Do student self-assessments agree with expert assessments? After a student self-identifies a knowledge or understanding gap, does it reoccur in subsequent problem solutions, and how does the rate of reoccurrence compare to students who fail to identify such gaps? This study has been approved by the institution’s IRB.

[1] S. A. Ambrose, M. W. Bridges, M. DiPietro, M. C. Lovett, and M. K. Norman, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Lund, C. R. F. (2020, June), Can Students Self-Generate Appropriately Targeted Feedback on Their Own Solutions in a Problem-Solving Context? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34256

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