# Repeated and blank responses

The figure shown on the left requires a bit of explaining. The three columns represent student responses at 1st, 2nd and 3rd attempt to a short-answer free-text question in formative use. Green represents correct responses; red/orange/yellow respresent incorrect responses. The reason I’ve used different colours here is to enable me to indicate repeated responses. Where a colour is identical from column to column, this means that an incorrect response from a first or second response was repeated exactly at second and/or third attempt. The colour grey represents responses that were completely blank. The figure shows that

• at first attempt, four responses (0.9% of the total of 449) were blank;
• at second attempt, 43 responses (17.8% of the total of 241) were identical with responses given at the first attempt, with 7 responses (2.9%) blank;
• at third attempt, 54 responses (27.4% of the total of 197) were identical with responses given at the second attempt, with 3 responses (1.5%) blank.

Reasons given by students (in interviews) for leaving the response box blank and repeating responses include just wanting to get to the final worked-example, not understanding the question and not understanding the feedback.

The figure on the right is for exactly the same question, but in low-stakes summative use. Not surprisingly, the proportion of repeated and blank responses is smaller. Now

• at first attempt, three responses (0.2% of the total of 1327) were blank;
• at second attempt, 18 responses (4.5% of the total of 398) were identical with responses given at the first attempt, again with 3 responses (0.8%) blank;
• at third attempt, 13 responses (4.9% of the total of 266) were identical with responses given at the second attempt, with 2 responses (0.8%) blank.
• In summative use, students are only likely to leave a response blank or repeat a response if they have absolutely no idea how to proceed i.e. if they don’t understand the question or the feedback provided. There’s a lesson for us there. I think there is also a lesson in the deeper engagement illustrated in summative use.

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