We've recognized the power of feedback in our virtual labs and interactive chapters for a long time, but have been frustrated at how limited we are when our only ways of giving feedback are multiple choice and numerical questions. There are many situations in our labs where we want students to be able to express their own ideas, whether that be through short answers, through constructing graphs, or through demonstrating an idea by applying it within a simulation.
Thanks to the National Science Foundation grant #1227245, we now have an opportunity, together with teams from several universities, to dream up new tools for giving feedback to students on complex tasks. Our team is working on ways of adding constraints to open-ended activities in such a way that students can still express themselves as they wish, but where it is much easier to categorize what the student does and provide useful feedback.
Our efforts on this project are focused around the experimental process. So far, we have worked on constrained essay questions, graphing exercises, and experimental design and data interpretation. Initial results are very promising and we'll be reporting on our progress through our blog and, longer-term, though published papers.