Friday Fave for March 8

We know that feedback is valuable. It is necessary for helping students improve rapidly. But not all feedback is created equal.

For example, consider evaluative feedback in which the student is told whether their response is right or wrong. In many circumstances, this can be frustrating and unhelpful—especially if the student is really struggling to understand a concept. In such cases, “wrong” may offer no guidance for improvement besides “guess again”.

Quality feedback can be very time-consuming. Many edtech companies try to help by doing the evaluation. “Let the tech mark correct/incorrect. Instant feedback!” This side-steps—and occasionally exacerbates—the problems with evaluative feedback. More of something that isn’t working isn’t better.

For a different approach, let’s look elsewhere. Video game designers are pros at interpretive feedback. They know that it’s satisfying for a player to take an action and have the game respond. They recognize the value in showing rather than telling.

Here’s what a video game would look like with evaluative feedback.

Animation of Mario jumping, but before you see whether he clears the canyon, the screen is covered with a message reading "Not quite yet...Try again, get help, or skip for now."

Contrast that with how video games really work: interpretive feedback (both animations courtesy of Dan Meyer).

Animation of Mario jumping. You see him take to the air, miss the far side of the canyon, and fall down into it.

Video game designers recognize that there is value in showing players the consequences of their actions, especially when a goal isn’t achieved, because doing so helps players make adjustments.

We make digital math curriculum here at Desmos, and we work hard to offer interpretive feedback when we can. If we can show you what your answer means rather than simply whether it’s right or wrong, we’ll do that every time.

We show you whether your lines hit the coins in Coin Capture.

Animation of a student screen with an equation input on the right and a coordinate grid with an arrangement of coins. The student's first line hits no coins. The second line hits one coin. The third line hits four coins.

If you make mistakes in your computations in Picture Perfect, your pictures won’t hang properly on the wall.

Animation of a student screen with a table input for locations for hanging pictures on a wall. The student's first attempt hangs one of the pictures beyond the edge of the room, so it falls to the floor. The student revises and the pictures hang successfully in the room.

And we show you whether your line goes through the gates in Linear Slalom.

Animation of a student screen with two gates on a coordinate plane. The student's first equation sends a line through gate but misses the other. The student revises and the line goes through both gates.

In those three activities, and so many more, interpretive feedback is this week’s Friday Fave.