According to a recent study, grading is one of the least stressful activities early career teachers have to complete. Grading is time consuming, however, and more grading-related questions are popping up in the news these days. For instance, are teachers allowed to reduce grades for late work? Are students allowed to retake tests on which they did not do well? It is essential that teachers have a clear and supportive grading system in place to address the scrutiny of today’s students, parents, and other stakeholders.
Setting up a grading system requires more than a calculator. A philosophical foundation is important to how a teacher grades. Having a philosophical basis for grading helps instructors explain grades, their meaning, and their value to students, who may then see the grade as less arbitrary.Two common approaches to further mitigate this arbitrary nature include normative-based grading and criterion- or standards-based grading. To build a strong, meaningful grading policy, instructors must choose the approach that best fits the course design and student learning outcomes.
Instructors who choose a normative approach will grade based upon relative performance. A teacher’s fallback practice may be to grade on a curve; however, curved grading is philosophically flawed in most course level applications. Effective instructional design models and psychometrics generally anticipate that students can master an end-of-course exam with a 70 to 80 percent score. Exams that do not reflect that criteria may have been poorly designed. Otherwise, instructional challenges or lack of student engagement could be to blame. Some college courses simply provide a curved score for students to lower the failure rate or to stratify student performance. This, however, does not evidence how students understood the content. Curved grades only show how students performed in relation to other students instead of reflecting students’ mastery of the materials.…Read More