A repost from the old blog. Easily one of my best entries...
This post was inspired by the radio story, "Why We Care More About Losses Than Gains" via NPR Morning Edition. Here's a two sentence recap of a 4 minute story: Let's say you lose $50 on a bet, according to psychologists humans are more likely to make another bet to make up for that $50 loss than they ever were make the original bet. We, as humans, on average have a large loss aversion.
The average junior high student does their homework, crams before a quiz, and might practice a little for a test. From my experience only the most dedicated students will spend the extra time and energy needed to get an "A" on every math assignment. Outside of mandatory assignments a typical 13 year old does not seek extra practice on their own. It used to be the case where finding math practice problems was very difficult, however Khan Academy and Wolfram Alpha have mostly eliminated that issue. It's not a knock on students, it's true now, it was true for me as a teenager, and it was probably true for my parents. Junior high students for many years have done what is required, but only a select few go above and beyond what is required. If anyone can find a school where every student studies for every math test please let me know - I'd love to know the methods and incentives they use.
I picked up the idea of allowing students to correct their homework, quizzes, and some tests from my cooperating teacher, Mrs. Zydek, during student teaching. I had never seen this policy used on every assignment, only the atrocious ones. All students really seem to like it. Students who frequently skip homework have a way to bail themselves out, a few who have a really bad night don't have to stress, and students who strive for perfection can achieve it on nearly every assignment. As a teacher, I like the fact that this policy encourages students to analyze and correct their errors. I allow students to correct their homework for full credit; quizzes and tests can be corrected for partial credit. My grading system puts a very large weight (80%) on quizzes and tests so students know it is important to do well the first time to maximize their grade. For the most part, students analyze the problems they missed and seek help from peers, friends, family, or me to make sure they get them correct - if not for the knowledge, then for the points toward their grade.
So how does this tie into "loss aversion?" If the average student isn't going to study for their math test, I still need a way for them to master the material. And allowing corrections is that method. Getting a student to study extensively for their math test (make the original $50 bet) is tough, but getting them to correct work to dig themselves out of a hole (the makeup bet) is much, much easier.
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