One of our design principles at Desmos is to “delay feedback for reflection, especially during concept development activities.” This makes us weird, frankly, in Silicon Valley where no one ever got fired for promising “immediate feedback” in their math edtech.
We get it. Computers have an enormous advantage over humans in their ability to quickly give students feedback on certain kinds of work. But just because computers can deliver immediate feedback doesn’t mean they always should.
For example, Simmons and Cope (1993) found that students were more likely to use procedural strategies like trial-and-error in a condition of immediate feedback than a condition of delayed feedback.
I’ll ask you what I asked 500 Twitter users:
How was your brain working differently in the “Circle” challenge [delayed feedback] than the “Parabola” challenge [immediate feedback]?
The circle one was both more challenging and fun. I found myself squinting on the circle to visualize it in my head while with the parabola I mindlessly did trial and error.
With the circle, the need to submit before seeing the effect made me really think about what each part of the equation would effect the graph in each way. This resulted in a more strategic first guess rather than a guess and check approach.
I could guess & check the parabola challenge. In the circle challenge I had to concentrate more about the center of the circle and the radius. Much more in fact.
I couldn’t use trial and error. I had to visualize and estimate and then make decisions. My brain was more satisfied after the circle.
I probably worked harder on [the circle] because my answer was not shown until I submitted my answer. It was more frustrating than the parabola problem – but I probably learned more.
This wasn’t unanimous, of course, but it was the prevailing sentiment. For most people, the feedback delay provoked thoughtfulness where the immediate feedback provoked trial-and-error.
We realize that the opposite of “immediate feedback” for many students is “feedback when my teacher returns my paper after a week.” Between those two options, we side with Silicon Valley’s preference for immediate feedback. But if computers can deliver feedback immediately, they can also deliver feedback almost immediately, after a short, productive delay. That’s the kind of feedback we design into our concept development activities.
BTW. For a longer version of that activity, check out Building Conic Sections, created by Dylan Kane and edited with love by our Teaching Faculty.