Purdue University, Brigham Young University and RM launch research project to improve student learning outcomes through ‘learning by evaluating’

RM, a leading supplier of technology solutions to the education sector, today announced the third phase of a research project with Purdue University and Brigham Young University to better understand and explore the impact of Learning by Evaluating on student attainment.

This research, led by Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute and Brigham Young University’s School of Technology, will be the largest-ever study using Adaptive Comparative Judgement – which harnesses our natural ability to make more consistent and accurate judgements by comparing pairs of items rather than in isolation. The research is funded by a $1.2m grant awarded by the National Science Foundation, Virginia.

Purdue RM Education Supporting Image learning by evaluating Students Performance

This third phase sees students at more than 20 schools per year in DeKalb County, Georgia implement RM Compare – RM’s industry-leading adaptive comparative judgement assessment and evaluation tool – for three years from the start of the upcoming academic year as part of their ongoing learning.

While traditional efforts around improving student learning and assessment often centre on teachers as the evaluators rather than the students themselves, the goal of the project is to put the power in students’ hands by allowing them to gain a greater understanding of what good work looks like, stimulating and promoting learning.

The first two phases of the research were undertaken in 2019 and 2020 and saw half of the cohort of ~550 undergraduate students given the opportunity to view and evaluate finalised work submitted by a previous cohort through RM Compare ahead of being tasked with an unrelated assignment. The other half of the cohort pursued traditional classroom activity such as sharing work and feedback in a teacher-led discussion.

The outcome was that the students who had used RM Compare developed a stronger understanding of ‘what good looks like’ and significantly improved their results, with this improvement in outcomes seen across the spectrum of student ability – which is of particular interest given that few interventions achieve equity of outcome and impact when it comes to more challenging, and harder to reach students.

Dr. Scott Bartholomew, one of the projects leads and assistant professor at Brigham Young University said:

“Our research has shown significant gains for students engaging in learning by evaluating across multiple grade levels and content areas. We expect to find similar results in our current partnership with DeKalb County School District and look forward to working collaboratively with our teacher-partners who are exploring and expanding the learning opportunities made possible through this effort. While many software tools can facilitate a learning approach through evaluation, RM Compare has the most tools, options, and customisation for assisting both teachers and students in this process.”

The Learning by Evaluating project has already received recognition from the industry for its achievement, with it recently being awarded Best Research Project at the 2021 e-Assessment Awards in London. 

RM Compare is also already being used in many UK universities, helping to improve assessment outcomes.

Dr Jill Barber, National Teaching Fellow, School of Health Sciences, University of Manchester said:

“While students are very reluctant to assign a mark to another student’s piece of work, our research shows that students are good at judging between two pieces of work and selecting a “winner”. Furthermore, in a peer-assessed exercise carried out in RM Compare, each student receives rich and varied feedback from about 10 of their peers. Student feedback generally contains all the points that staff would make so it is of high value.  Students welcome the opportunity to see other students’ work and to learn from it.“

Peter Collison, Head of Formative Assessment at RM said:

“This project is the perfect demonstration of how technology can support both students and teachers in the classroom, without taking away from the learning experience. In fact, RM Compare helps turn the assessment process itself into a learning experience, by letting students collaborate with peers and teachers to successfully improve their grades. Beyond this, it also frees up teacher time, allowing them to utilise their expertise in the best ways: facilitating learning, helping struggling students, and guiding and coaching through classroom learning.”