Mastery tasks are a method of assessment involving one-on-one interactions in which students receive immediate feedback. Students are given multiple chances to successfully demonstrate a skill to the instructor’s satisfaction, before using it in other contexts. We’ve found these to be effective formative assessments, particularly in making sure that students are prepared to tackle challenging problem assignments.

You have just turned back the latest assignments to your students. You have put many hours into marking them and providing written feedback, but you watch in despair as your students pick up their assignments, look at the marks, then stuff them into the bottoms of their backpacks. Have any of them learned anything from the feedback? Was the time spent writing the feedback worth it?

Many assessments such as these suffer from long feedback loops, where students receive corrections days after completing their assigned work. There is mounting evidence that when corrections...

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