Grades provide a snapshot of student achievement on assignments, performances, and examinations. Grades symbolize the level of achievement of a particular task and communicate both to you and the student whether or not the student has met the instructional goals set forth at the beginning of a reporting period (Frisbie & Waltman, 1992).
As a member of the Higher Learning Commission, NIU’s faculty are required to assess student learning through term papers, examinations, or other means; link assessment activities to instructional goals and objectives; ensure assessment measures are valid and reliable; directly involve faculty; use assessment outcomes to improve teaching and learning; and ensure assessment is included in curricular, course, and budget plans (Walvoord and Anderson, 1998). Through the mandate, it becomes clear that grading is a crucial part of teaching that requires careful planning and follow-through.
Grades provide a snapshot of student achievement on assignments, performances, and examinations.
Walvoord and Anderson, in Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment, present 12 principles to help faculty understand and work through the complexity of grading:
Seize the teachable moment—as with actual teaching, giving grades can elicit a variety of feedback.
Be a teacher first, a gatekeeper last—strive to help students learn…
Grading involves a number of elements that vary, from your style of teaching and preference of grading strategies to the course content and how you perceive success in your class. Frisbie and Waltman (1992) developed an instructional module to help instructors develop defensible, effective, and fair grading practices. The module poses questions to ask yourself which may be helpful as you develop a personal grading philosophy:
Turn failure into a teachable moment to help the student learn from the situation.
Becoming an efficient grader takes time and practice and strategies will change depending on content and curriculum. The nature of the grading will change with each course but it is best to use similar grading strategies for different sections of the same course to maintain consistency. Using the suggestions described here can help you develop your own grading philosophy and should help you adjust your instructional approach as you teach new and revise old courses.
Frisbie, D. A., & Waltman, K. K. (1992). Developing a personal grading plan.
Walvoord, B. E., & Johnson Anderson, V. (1998). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). The process of grading. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide