G. Cavanaugh

Taylor's College (MALAYSIA)
Many teachers who take the time to provide detailed comments as part of summative assessment lament that they do not feel most students take the time to read and understand the feedback. Frequently, it is the students who would most benefit from these comments who seem to make the same mistakes on future assignments. As an Action Research project, an English Literature class receiving the Ontario curriculum was selected to attempt a different tactic: feedback-only summative assessment. The students were still scored based upon the assignment rubric, but they only received comments. A student could surmise a mark by carefully reading the feedback and comparing it to the rubric. The intention of the project was to encourage student success by making stronger, more effective links between formative and summative assessment, and to demonstrate to students how feedback is a better tool for learning than grades. However, the results were mixed. The class did perform slightly better than students in the same course conducted over the previous year, but what is particularly interesting is the information from the project debriefing. Although the students confirmed they generally liked the idea of feedback-only assessment, they still wanted a grade. When asked to explain what the grade actually meant, they were unable to provide accurate answers. They simply felt it was important to include. To summarize, they see the value of detailed feedback and how it can help them succeed -- but they still want to see a grade as some sort of confirmation of overall success. This study shows how grades are still sacrosanct in the early 21st century. More importantly, it suggests ways on how formative and summative assessment can better work together to help ensure student success and encourage students to look beyond grades.