Draft Article for UCL Newsletter, April 1997


Do you know what you don't know?
A.R. Gardner-Medwin & *K. Issroff Dept. Physiology, and *Higher Education Research & Development Unit, UCL, London WC1E 6BT

'Confidence assessment' in computer marking of student work is proving beneficial to student learning at UCL.

Students yield two kinds of information in reply to a question. One is the answer, right or wrong. The second is their confidence that the answer is correct. In tutorials this may be evident from the speed or tone of an answer, or stated explicitly. Teachers use this instinctively to assess students and to guide teaching. Confident wrong answers indicate different and more serious problems than acknowledged guesses. With written work or conventional tests, however, teachers and students may miss out on this significant assessment factor.

The UCL initiative has been carried through by Dr Tony Gardner-Medwin (Physiology) in a system called the London Agreed Protocol for Teaching (LAPT), with recent help from Dr Kevin Boone (Physiology) and evaluation by Dr Kim Issroff (HERDU) through a CHEELD secondment.

The LAPT system is simple: "Albania borders Romania. True or False? Confidence = 3, 2 or 1?" The selected confidence level determines the mark awarded for a correct answer. Wrong answers cost you -6, -2 or zero. You get the best marks if you can judge your confidence reliably.

Confidence assessment is important as it allows students to develop the habits of introspection and of checking the basis of their answers. Good students learn to flag uncertainties in their reasoning, a transferable skill which is valuable in every walk of life.

LAPT is used mainly by medical and allied students at present, and usage is increasing rapidly each year. This year, teachers have integrated LAPT usage more into course work (including practice and in-course assessment in numeracy skills). As a result, LAPT use is becoming more continuous, not just a frenzy before exams. Half a million questions have been posed on ISD computers, and probably (based on medical questionnaires) an equal number in home study.

A survey of medical students found that two thirds considered confidence assessment 'useful' or 'very useful' and 96% rated the system 'easy' to use. One student called it "the most valuable revision tool I used last year". Four students volunteered about confidence assesssment "It's a better indicator of my knowledge". The most common reservation related to the fact that exams themselves do not employ confidence assessment.

Further Information: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~cusplap/index.htm or contact Dr Gardner-Medwin: x7135; a.gardner-medwin@ucl.ac.uk

[BOX] Workshop on preparing material for LAPT, for staff in any department. 4-5.30pm, 19 May (provisional) Contact l.black@ucl.ac.uk, x 1676 or see the web page. [Figure: UCL usage data]


Go to LAPT Home Page . Queries / Problems: e-mail to ucgbarg@ucl.ac.uk