*This article first appeared in the Teaching Professor on August 7, 2018. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved. For the last seven years, I have had the
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How often does anyone write about being blessed by a policy seemingly rooted in chaos theory? If you were looking, here it is. The academic
Before discussing grading, let me return to assignments and a key point. My students are frequently uncertain about how to write an introduction and a
Over the previous decade, researchers have made the case that engaging students in metacognition improves learning outcomes for students across fields (Zhao et al, 2014;
Having clear insight into students’ thinking and where there might be gaps in their understanding of a topic is incredibly valuable. It allows a skilled
A very short trip to a time long ago J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous 1937 fantasy book, The Hobbit, introduces among its heroes a fierce
A common rhetorical move we professors make when students object to a grade is to reframe the discussion. We’ll say, “Let’s be clear. I didn’t give you this grade. You earned it.” And if it were appropriate we might underscore our zinger with a smugly snapped Z. But stop and think about it. When we make the “you earned it” move, it’s simply an attempt to shift the debate away from the fairness or interpretation of our standard and onto students to justify their effort by our standard, which really wasn’t their complaint.
There’s a lot to be gained from considering ideas and arguments at odds with current practice. In higher education, many instructional practices are accepted and replicated with little thought. Fortunately, there are a few scholars who keep asking tough questions and challenging conventional thinking. Australian D. Royce Sadler is one of them. His views on feedback and assessment are at odds with the mainstream, but his scholarship is impeccable, well-researched, and logically coherent. His ideas merit our attention, make for rich discussion, and should motivate us to delve into the assumptions that ground current policies and practices.
If there’s a perfect grading system, it has yet to be discovered. This post is about point systems—not because they’re the best or the worst but because they’re widely used. It is precisely because they are so prevalent that we need to think about how they affect learning.
It would be nice if we had some empirical evidence to support our thinking. I’m surprised that so little research has been done on this common grading system. Does it promote more effective learning (as measured by higher exam scores or overall course grades) than letter grades or percentages? Does it motivate students to study? Does it make students more grade oriented or less so? Does it provoke more grade anxiety than other systems or less? Does make a difference whether we use a 100-point system or a 1,000-point system? We all have our preferences—and sometimes even reasons—for the systems we use, but where’s the evidence? I can’t remember reading anything empirical that explores these questions—if you have, please share the references.