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Grading is a constant issue. Maria offers three suggestions to help you develop clear and fair grading practices: Give students various opportunities to show what they know, grade on the basis of academic performance and stress learning over grades.
Hello. This is Dr. Maria Yon, Faculty Fellow in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Welcome to Teaching and Learning Matters.
Grading practices seem a constant issue. A recent episode focused on grade inflation. Today, we look at assigning grades. It is near the end of the semester when we go through the sometimes emotional process of evaluating students and giving the final grade. It is a stressful time for most students, because the grade they receive affects them very personally.
To begin with, the planning for assessment and grading starts with the development of the syllabus. The syllabus should clearly lay out the tests, assignments, and other activities that will receive grades that result in a final course grade. If you devise clear guidelines for how you assess performance, you will find the grading process more efficient and the communication of student’s level of knowledge more accurate. The number of complaints about grades will be fewer. Including policies about late assignments, extra credit, revision of papers, and grace periods is also a help. So, the syllabus is key as the first step in communicating your expectations and policies for grading.
Now for three suggestions that will help you develop clear and fair grading practices:
First, give various opportunities for students to show what they know. A mid-term and final is simply not enough. By giving several tests and different types of tests, formal papers, other types of short written assignments or projects, and scheduling them every two to three weeks, you will have a more accurate picture of student’s abilities. More importantly, student stress is lowered because they have a variety of ways to show you what they know and they have several opportunities to do so.Today’s students need constant feedback about how they are progressing.
Second, grade on the basis of students’ academic performance. Mastery of knowledge and skills is the goal of most courses. By including non-academic factors such as effort, classroom behavior, attitude, and classroom participation you obscure the meaning of a grade as an indicator of what students have learned. Moreover, it is difficult to defend a grade when it includes factors that are difficult to measure accurately. Often students will confront you with this statement: “I put so much effort into this. I deserve a higher grade”. Can you evaluate effort? Probably not. You can only evaluate the final product that reflects the effort.
Finally, stress learning over grades. Once you have reviewed the assignments and grading policies at the beginning of the term, turn the discussion to learning and avoid an overemphasis on grades. Stressing grades increases students’ anxieties and decreases their motivation to learn for its own sake rather than the external reward of a grade. It seems that in recent years students have become very grade-conscious. Nothing less than an A is acceptable. When studentsapproach you with a concern about a grade, pause before your response, and decide how you can turn your response into one that focuses on the purpose of a grade—to evaluate mastery, not a personal reflection on them.
Grading is one of the most important aspects of our work. In one letter we sum up a student’s accomplishment for the semester. I hope this presentation has provided something useful.
Thanks for listening. Tune in again for Teaching and Learning Matters.
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