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Study finds final grade predictions affect how hard students will work

July 31st, 2013 Posted in Canada, Education

Motivating students to make the grade through feedback.

If you could predict your end-of-course mark, would you study harder to change the course of your final grade? A one-of-a-kind Brock University study gave undergrads the opportunity to forecast their final mark while the course was still underway – and to improve it before it was too late. It seems predicting future marks does motivate some students, out of fear maybe?

“The goal was to give them a better feedback on how well they were performing in the course, so that they could make better decisions about their studying,” says professor Michael Armstrong, who created a computer spreadsheet program that predicts probable future performance based on what they’d scored so far – 144 students participated.

Generally, students aren’t great at gauging their learning performance, and how students perform early on in a course is indicative of how they’ll do on their final exam. So Armstrong set out to help motivate his students to achieve their study objectives through forecast feedback.

And they reacted to the results: Nearly a third of participants said the grade forecasts were lower than expected, and 47% were studying harder than planned. In addition, students who experienced anxiety regarding the predictions were more likely to study, and “A” students were seven times more likely than “D” students to try the forecasting, he says. Students with low-grade forecasts were motivated to study more, while high-grade forecasts resulted in less studying.

“The forecasts themselves have no impact on final grades – they are not guarantees. However, if the students react to the forecasts, then their changed efforts – e.g. putting in more hours of study to prepare for the exam – could affect their exam performance and final grades,” says Armstrong, an award winning professor at Goodman School of Business at the St. Catharine’s, Ont. university. He’s trying to encourage more of that.

According to Armstrong, the forecasting exercise definitely had a positive impact. “However, the particular students who reacted were not necessarily the ones I thought would react; and the reasons for their reaction weren’t quite what I had expected. There was a small but noticeable tendency for students to react to the forecast grade itself. That is, students with low forecast grades tended to say they were now studying harder , even if low grades were exactly what they had been expecting,” he says.”Similarly, students with high forecasts tended to study less, even if that forecast merely confirmed what they already knew.”

According to Armstrong, grade forecasting would most benefit first- and second-year students, as they are transitioning from high school to university and need to adjust to the different environment and expectations.”For example, they need to do more studying outside of class on their own.”

Forecasts should be particularly helpful for students who are having trouble and are at risk of failing, he says. “Hopefully, it would help them realize they need to spend more time studying, attend tutorials, etc. In cases where the student has fallen way behind, withdrawing from the course and re-enrolling in it next semester may be the wisest option.”

Armstrong’s research, “A Preliminary Study of Grade Forecasting for Students,” appeared in Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative education in April 2013.

By Joanne Richard, Special to QMI Agency, 24 Hours Toronto

 

 

 

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