Please don’t treat this too seriously – but please do stop and think about what I am trying to say, in the light of the fact that the effectiveness of feedback on assessment tasks is, despite the huge amount that’s been written on the subject, poorly understood.
Many people talk about the issues that arise when the grade awarded for an assignment ‘gets in the way’ of the feedback – and this is something I have seen evidence of myself. Authors also talk in quite damnatory terms about extrinsic motivation and surface learning. However, we have to face the fact that many of our students probably have no aspiration to submit perfect work – they just want to do OK, to pass, not to fall too far behind their peers.
Now sidestep to the theory of natural selection and evolution. Individuals with advanatagous characteristics have a a greater probability of survival, and therefore of reproducing. Provided that these characteristics are inherited by offspring, individuals possessing the characteristics will become more common in the population. If something like an environmental change (a common example is a decrease in soot in the atmosphere) means that there is a change in what is advantageous (so, in the example, dark coloured moths – which were well camouflaged from their predators when the atmophere was sooty – become less well camouflaged and so more likely to be eaten) then relatively rapid evolution will be seen (in the example, light coloured moths will become more common). When there is no change in the environment, natural selection will still be taking place, but you won’t see a lot of evolution.
Now, think feedback. If a student only wants to pass and is getting pass grades and feedback that says they are doing OK, then [in their view] is there any need for them to do anything differently? Perhaps there isn’t really a ‘gap’ (Ramaprasad, 1983; Sadler, 1989) to close. Perhaps this is just the natural way of things.