Washback is the effect that testing has on teaching and learning. This term is commonly used in language assessment but is not limited to only that field. One of the primary concerns of many teachers is developing assessments that provide washback or that enhance students learning and understanding of ideas in a class.
This post will discuss three ways in which washback can be improved in a class. The three ways are…
- Written feedback on exams
- Go over the results as a class
- Meetings with students on exam performance
Exams or assignments that are highly subjective (ie essays) require written feedback in order to provide washback. This means specific, personalized feedback for each student. This is a daunting task for most teachers especially as classes get larger. However, if your goal is to improve washback providing written comments is one way to achieve this.
The letter grade or numerical score a student receives on a test does not provide insights into how the student can improve. The reasoning behind what is right or wrong can be provided in the written feedback.
Go Over Answers in Class
Perhaps the most common way to enhance feedback is to go over the test in class. This allows the students to learn what the correct answer is, as well as why one answer is the answer. In addition, students are given time to ask questions and clarification of the reasoning behind the teacher’s marking.
If there were common points of confusion, going over the answers in this way allows for the teacher to reteach the confusing concepts. In many ways, the test revealed what was unclear and now the teacher is able to provide support to achieve mastery.
For highly complex and extremely subjective forms of assessments (ie research paper) one-on-one meetings may be the most appropriate. This may require a more personal touch and a greater deal of time.
During the meeting, students can have their questions addressed and learn what they need to do in order to improve. This is a useful method for assignments that require several rounds of feedback in order to be completed.
Washback, if done properly, can help with motivation, autonomy, and self-confidence of students. What this means is that assessment should not only be used for grades but also to develop learning skills.