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Does formative feedback help or hinder students? An empirical investigation

Carlos Cortinhas ()

No 1701, Discussion Papers from University of Exeter, Department of Economics

Abstract: The link between formative assessment and student performance is not entirely clear in the existing literature with some previous studies showing contradicting results. Although the debate is very old (since mid-1800s), previous research is almost exclusively based on elementary and secondary school students. This paper attempts to add to the existing literature by focusing on data from a large scale experiment (a class of 578 UK first year undergraduate students enrolled on Introduction to Statistics) to determine whether online, formative (non-compulsory) homework helps or hinders students. The results suggest that completing formative assessment tasks contributes to higher grades but only for good students. The result is robust to a variety of specifications and after controlling for a large number of student characteristics (including nationality, gender, ethnicity, whether a student has completed a Maths or Economics A-Level in Secondary School, amongst others) and the level of student ability/effort. This study shows, therefore, that formative homework might contribute to amplifying inequalities amongst students and that other strategies are needed to close the gap between the top and bottom performing students.

Keywords: homework; online learning; formative assessment. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C21 I21 I24 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-edu and nep-ure
Date: 2017
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