Providing Student Feedback with CLASS (Confidence-based learning accuracy support system)

David McConnell, Ph.D.
Professor, Marine, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
North Carolina State University

Need: The adoption of research-validated methods of student-centered instruction can increase learning gains in undergraduate courses. These initiatives place considerable emphasis on instructional practice but there has been less examination of strategies that have the potential to enhance student learning processes. We designed and developed the Confidence-based Learning Accuracy Support System (CLASS) to provide students explicit feedback related to their mastery of geology content and the accuracy of their perceptions of their abilities. CLASS leverages robust evidence from education psychology regarding student metacognition and self-regulated learning (SRL). We developed and provided CLASS quizzes (with varying requirements) to provide students with feedback regarding their learning and accuracy during the target courses. Guiding Question: What are the effects of course modifications related to CLASS quizzing on students’ CLASS usage patterns in the target course? Specifically, what are the effects of altering the following: a. Course requirements related to CLASS quizzing (optional ungraded vs. required attempts ungraded vs. graded) b. Course/quiz structure (more frequent quizzes; more questions per quiz) c. Adding new CLASS features (e.g., customized student-generated quizzes)Outcomes: There was a significant increase in CLASS quiz usage as a result of changing the quiz requirements which provided students with significantly more opportunities for practice leading up to course exams. This alteration elicited an increase in the temporal distribution of students’ practice across the semester with almost no gaps in use (as opposed to multiple weeks without practice in prior semesters). Although we may anticipate that students would take advantage of an optional quiz system to support their learning, data suggests they do so to a limited extent. However, when students’ quiz attempts were counted for course credit (highest grade counts), student performance on the quizzes increased significantly (∼7%), potentially signaling an increase in intentionality and effort in executing each attempt itself. Results indicated that students utilizing CLASS performed better than their predecessors for the first two exams and were generally more accurate in their approximations.Broader Impacts: Overall, the iterative course changes succeeded in increasing overall CLASS quiz usage, distributed this use over time, and positively influenced student exam outcomes in the course. Lessons to be learned for instructors are that decisions made regarding how to structure your course have direct effects on not only student behavior, but their learning process. Making course design decisions with the explicit intent of inducing effective learning strategies can impact student learning. As CLASS itself is built with these principles in mind, this work further suggests the potential for CLASS as a useful tool for instructors to support student learning. The comparison of this communicated confidence to performance outcomes, when provided as explicit feedback, can help students to close gaps in their understanding. This same information can provide insights into the effectiveness of teaching strategies on the student learning experience beyond academic performance. As a result, we encourage researchers to pursue future inquiry into the relationship between student confidence, instructional support and learning outcomes to maximize geoscience learning


Jason Jones, North Carolina State University