Computer-based tests are a great way of performing formative assessments in schools. Apart from the ease and speed of grading, CBTs allow for immediate and personalized feedback to students. Students can know exactly what went wrong, why it went wrong, and most importantly how to get back on track!

How To Use CBT For Effective Feedback

There is a growing rise of CBTs (Computer Based Tests), especially in our educational institutions. Many schools are beginning to buy-in to the fast and easy way of testing students. For one, it helps teachers get through grading as quickly and easily as possible, and it even makes it easy to analyze the results.

What Is CBT?

Known as computer-based tests, it is the use of computer software to test students on something they have been taught. It is usually questions set in multiple-choice (objective) formats. Students read a particular question and are expected to choose the correct answer from a list of 4 or 5 options provided.

Usually, at the admin end of the CBT software, the teacher has the opportunity to select the right answer and determine the grade point which will be used to automatically grade the student’s work when it is submitted. With this, the student can immediately see what score or grade they got in the test.

However, one of the biggest advantages of CBTs is the ability to provide immediate feedback to the students and help the student learn from it. So we shall look a little more at the concept of feedback and how it can be carried out with CBT software.

Concept Of Feedback

Feedback in simple terms is the response we get after we have carried out a task. It is the assessment of the work that we have done. In the classroom, feedback can be given in different ways. When teachers walk around in class checking what the students are doing and helping them get back on track, this is feedback. When teachers write the correct answers to a test on the board, that is another form of feedback.

Immediate Feedback

While we were going through an academic program last year, we wrote a test. When I requested to see how I performed, I was simply told to forget it and just prepare for the final exams. My argument was simple—how does a student improve and perform better when they don’t know what to improve on or where to concentrate better or how to improve on the lapses?

Feedback is effective when it is immediate. When students have to wait a whole week or more before knowing how they performed in a task (or test) or even worse still before knowing what to do to perform better, then it is no longer appropriate feedback. Effective feedback must be immediate and CBT software makes this possible. The questions are programmed together with the options and the correct answer. The system not only records the student’s response but checks it alongside the correct option set by the teacher. The system then provides immediate feedback to the student based on what they have selected.

Personalized Feedback

Another advantage of good CBTs is the ability to provide each student with a feedback unique to him. Rather than the generic correction where the student simply writes down what he has gotten wrong, personalized feedback works with each student to determine where they aren’t getting it right and helps the learner to do it better. CBTs can, therefore, provide feedback (already programmed) for each question based on whether the learner got it right or wrong. More advanced systems, allow for additional comments by the teacher which makes it even more personalized. Feedback is effective when it is immediate and personalized!

Parts Of An Effective Feedback

Every feedback that will be effective should have 3 levels. The feedback must tell the student what went wrong, why it went wrong, and most importantly how to get back on track!

What went wrong!

This is the basic thing every feedback seeks to do. It points to the student what they got right and as is mostly the case, what they got wrong. Many times the emphasis is on what they got wrong and so feedback is omitted when the student gets all answers correct, without proceeding to the other parts of a correct feedback.

So let’s assume a teacher provides 10 multiple choice questions. This first level of feedback simply reports back to the student that they have gotten 6 out of 10 questions right and that means they have passed. This level of feedback might even go ahead to show the student what they got right or what they got wrong. However, it doesn’t provide further insight into why they missed those they missed or how to get it right next time.

Why it went wrong!

This is the next level of an appropriate feedback. An effective feedback doesn’t just tell what has gone wrong but attempts to show why it went wrong. It identifies patterns and provides an explanation for what questions were missed. An appropriate feedback helps the student to understand the smaller steps preceding the major wrong step. These traceable steps help the student forestall a future mistake. When next they find themselves on a similar route, they remember those are preceding steps to the major error. Correct feedback must help the student determine why they got the question wrong.

How to get back on track!

This is the final step in an effective feedback. An effective feedback must not only show the student where they missed it, not just why they missed it but how to get back on track. Effective feedback must help the student discover how to make it better. Effective feedback must point the student back on the right track. Effective feedback must give the student clues on how to get it right next time. It should point to aspects of the material to re-study or a video to watch to find their way back.

Allow For Multiple Attempts

This is the next logical way to ascertain that your feedback was taken and gotten. It is advised to allow the student to repeat the test at least a second time based on the feedback they have gotten.

Some argue that this will compromise the grade originally gotten. My response has always been to ask “Why do we test at all?”. Is it just to record a grade? Or is it just to prove that you’re a tough teacher, and so many students do not do well in your test? Or is it rather ensure the students understand properly what you have taught them?

So if a student retakes a test and performs better, not out of guessing but out of a better understanding they gained as you provided immediate, personalized and helpful feedback, isn’t this the ultimate aim? And just to make this better, the final score could be an average of the 2 or 3 attempts and not only the final or highest attempt.

Allowance for multiple attempts helps the student become comfortable with trying and failing so they can perform better. They know they don’t have to guess or cheat, they can do it on their own and discover what they already know. They also know they will always have the chance to retake it until they understand the concept fully! All these are easy to accomplish with CBTs without any additional labor to the teacher!

CBTs Are Great For Effective Feedback

CBTs are a great way to achieve these levels of Feedback. They not only provide a grade saying “You got 6 out of 10”; they also show you where you missed it, and why you missed it. Furthermore, when properly used, the system can also provide valuable information for getting the right answer. It can provide links to external articles to read or videos to watch which helps the student to arrive at the right answer.

So, as you embrace computer-based tests in your school, use it for effective feedback. Use it to provide immediate and personalized feedback. Use it to point to the student where they got or missed it, why they got or missed it and how they can get back on track and perform better next time.

Do you use CBT systems in your school? How do you use it especially to achieve effective feedback?

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