September 6, 2023

One simple feature that changed student engagement

One simple feature that changed student engagement

Teachers who use Class Companion discover something heartening: given feedback and the opportunity, students want to fix their mistakes and improve.

Our #1 feature request from students was a “try again.” It bothered them so much that the AI provided feedback, but they couldn’t act upon it.

To explain this phenomenon, I defer to Joe Feldman’s *Grading for Equity*, in which he emphasizes the power of redo:

Learning depends on mistakes, but only when there’s a mechanism to review mistakes and an opportunity to correct them. Students must fix their errors and give it another try until they succeed, which means we have to offer them that next try…students are motivated to keep learning if we let them—if they have the chance to redeem themselves and show improved performance. May, a high school world languages teacher for twenty years, was surprised at how her students responded to retakes, when she gave them hope:
“I used to think I wouldn’t see a lot of progress in students who get low grades, but by allowing them to redo as many times as they wanted, they actually had the confidence to come back and think, ’Oh. I could actually get a good grade in this class.’ They’re willing to put in more effort because as they redo tests they’re seeing that they can do the work. They seem to respond more positively to the learning process. They’re not giving up.”— Grading for Equity, Kindle edition, page 165

Class Companion makes Grading for Equity’s approach to redos possible by:
👉 Providing instant feedback that points out mistakes in detail
👉 Answering questions (e.g., recalling facts, defining vocab) to assist the redo
👉 Allowing students to make multiple redos (attempts) per question

Class Companion example with blue boxes showing the student’s first attempt, which was incorrect
Class Companion AI provides additional clarification

Mistakes are gold because they drive learning

Teachers actually depend on students taking risks and revealing mistakes in order to help them—teachers can’t correct mistakes or misconceptions that students don’t reveal.— Grading for Equity, Kindle edition, page 30

By enabling students to increase the sheer volume of practice and increase the speed of their feedback loop, Class Companion gives students more opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. This, in turn, means you have deeper insight into each student’s understanding and mastery.

In reviewing students’ submissions, teachers have exclaimed, “I can’t believe my students thought that!” It turns out that sometimes, students really did not understand a concept or reading. Class Companion surfaces these for you, so you can focus on helping each individual student.

Grading practice trains students to fear mistakes

If mistakes on any work—homework assignments, tests, quizzes, in-class worksheets, discussions—are always penalized with a score that is incorporated into a grade no matter whether those mistakes occur at the beginning, middle, or end of learning, then the message is that mistakes aren’t ever acceptable, much less desired, and they certainly aren’t ever valuable. Students will be discouraged, not encouraged, to take risks and be vulnerable.— Grading for Equity, Kindle edition, page 30

We grade practice partly because we want to reward effort and partly because we fear students won’t do homework without the incentive of points. Class Companion aims to make practice engaging enough—through our instant and personalized feedback—that students will do the work for its own sake, rather than for the points.

Students say the instant feedback is far better than waiting a week to get back their work, at which point they neither remember nor care about their mistakes. They take one look at the grade and skip the comments.

Instead, let students practice, again and again, without penalty

Instead, we teach students that early mistakes don’t consign you to mediocrity or failure, that learning takes time and dedication, and that everyone can grow and succeed. We give an assessment, and then if they don’t do well, we let them know that they can learn from their mistakes and on the next assessment, they’ll get another chance.— Grading for Equity, Kindle edition, page 101

Class Companion allows your students to practice again and again without placing an unreasonable demand on your time. Redos have all the upside of motivating our students and providing a growth mindset—and none of the downside.

Students can and do enjoy persistent practice!

The good news is that we’re not starting from square one; our students actually already understand the concept of practicing not for immediate rewards but for performance in the future. Students spend hours shooting free throws, rehearsing a dance performance or religious rituals, doing multiple rewrites of rap lyrics, or kicking goals in the backyard, all readying themselves for an improved performance in the game or concert.— Grading for Equity, Kindle edition, page 139


Feldman, Joe. Grading for Equity. SAGE Publications, 2019.

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