ETP - Developing Equitable Grading Practices

Learning Objectives

Rationale

“Grading, if done differently, can be accurate, not infected with bias, and can intrinsically motivate students to learn. Grades can clearly and more objectively describe what students know and can do. Grading practices can encourage students not to cheat but to learn, to persevere when they fail and not lose hope, and to take more ownership and agency for their achievement.” (Feldman, 2019, p. xxiii)

Learning Objectives

To develop equitable grading practices, we will discuss practices you can use to:

  • Explain your grading practices
  • Support students in tracking their grades
  • Use standards-based grading
  • Reduce bias by focusing on academic achievement
  • Use inclusive grading practices to increase equity
  • Use grading scales that ensure accurate measurements
  • Assign greater weight to more recent and summative evidence of mastery
  • Provide opportunities to use feedback for improvement
  • Structure opportunities for students to reflect on and improve their performance
  • Mitigate the negative impact of late work

Skeletal Outline

Download our skeletal outline to take notes on the practices included in this module.


Course Demonstrations and Expert Insights

For this module, the Course Demonstrations and Expert Insights are presented together by learning outcome. Please choose the practices you would like to explore in more detail by selecting the learning objective above those practices, which links to the videos.

LO1: Ensure students understand your grading practices

  • Explain your grading practices
  • Support students in tracking their grades

The Course Demonstrations, found on the first tab, and the Expert Insights, found on the second tab, provide demonstrations and suggestions for ensuring students understand your grading practices.

  • Course Demonstration

  • Expert Insights

Course Demonstration

In this Course Demonstration, instructors discuss and effectively demonstrate the practices they use to ensure students understand their grading practices.

Ensuring Students Understand Your Grading Practices

Download the transcript for this video.

Expert Insights

In this video, Ken O’Connor, MEd, and Joe Feldman, EdM, authors and scholars in teaching and learning, discuss the specific nuances of and the research supporting the teaching practices presented in this module.

Including Students in Assessment Practices and Tracking Grades

Download the transcript for this video.

LO2: Use practices that ensure the accuracy of grades

  • Use standards-based grading
  • Reduce bias by focusing on academic achievement
  • Use inclusive grading practices to increase equity
  • Use grading scales that ensure accurate measurements
  • Assign greater weight to more recent and summative evidence of mastery

The Course Demonstrations, found on the first tab, and the Expert Insights, found on the second tab, provide demonstrations and suggestions for using practices that ensure the accuracy of course grades.

  • Course Demonstration

  • Expert Insights

Course Demonstration

In this Course Demonstration, instructors discuss and effectively demonstrate the practices they use to ensure the accuracy of their grades.

Using Practices That Ensure the Accuracy of Grades

Download the transcript for this video.

Expert Insights

Each of the seven videos below, which feature Ken O’Connor, MEd, and Joe Feldman, EdM, focuses on individual practices that can impact the accuracy of your grades. Select the video(s) that you find most interesting.

Using Standards-Based Grading

Download the transcript for this video.

Reducing Bias by Focusing on Academic Achievement

Download the transcript for this video.

Using Grading Scales That Include Accurate Measurements

Download the transcript for this video.

Impacting Accuracy and Motivation by Using Zeros

Download the transcript for this video.

The Impact of Extra Credit on Accuracy

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Assigning More Weight to Recent Evidence of Mastery

Download the transcript for this video.

Determining the Amount of Evidence Needed

Download the transcript for this video.

LO3: Use grading practices that motivate students

  • Provide opportunities to use feedback for improvement
  • Structure opportunities for students to reflect on and improve their performance
  • Mitigate the negative impact of late work

The Course Demonstrations, found on the first tab, and the Expert Insights, found on the second tab, provide demonstrations and suggestions for using grading policies and practices that motivate students.

  • Course Demonstration

  • Expert Insights

Course Demonstration

In this Course Demonstration, instructors discuss and effectively demonstrate the grading practices they use to motivate their students.

Using Grading Practices That Motivate Students

Download the transcript for this video.

Expert Insights

In each of the three videos below, Ken O’Connor, MEd, and Joe Feldman, EdM, discuss the specific nuances of and the research supporting the teaching practices presented in this module.

Use Grading Practices That Motivate Students

Helping Students See the Benefits of Formative Assessments

Download the transcript for this video.

Structuring Opportunities for Retakes to Improve Performance

Download the transcript for this video.

Mitigating the Negative Impact of Late Work

Download the transcript for this video.


Expert Insights – Expert Grading Panel

In the video and podcast below, Ken O’Connor, MEd; Joe Feldman, EdM; and Derek Dube, PhD, answer questions from ACUE faculty about equitable grading practices. Choose your preferred format (video or audio) to engage in the content.

  • Introduction (00:00)
  • What is equitable grading, and how does it differ from traditional grading models? (01:16)
  • To what extent is it fair to grade students in the same class differently? Should all students be held to the same assessment standards? (08:43)
  • When faculty are thinking about equitable grading policies, what are the categories or topics they should consider? (18:37)
  • To what extent should faculty use zeros? (25:32)
  • What are some strategies for mitigating academic dishonesty? (32:11)
  • Should extra credit be offered? (40:27)
  • Should attendance and participation be included in grades? (52:04)
  • Does transitioning to equitable grading practices require more work? (58:40)
  • How might faculty help students understand equitable grading approaches that are different from the traditional grading models they have experienced? (01:02:15)
  • For faculty who are considering making changes to their grading approaches, where might they start? (01:08:17)

Podcast

Download this podcast

Download the transcript for this video and podcast.


Common Challenges & Misconceptions

In this section, you will read about some common challenges and misconceptions associated with developing equitable grading practices. Click on each statement to read research-based clarifications and suggestions aligned to each challenge or misconception.

CHALLENGE: I want to make sure I am using grading practices that are equitable. What are some grading practices that may be considered inequitable?

CHALLENGE: I understand the inaccuracies that arise when calculating grades using the 100-point scale. However, my department requires us to grade using the 100-percentage point scale. What steps can I take to reduce the negative impact of students who receive a failing grade?

Suggestions:

Minimum grading works to correct the 100-point scale inaccuracy by ensuring that each grade level be represented by an equal number of points. This requires setting a minimum score above zero, often set at 50%, which ensures that the number of points from an F to a D is the same as from a B to an A (Feldman, 2018).

90–100 = A
80–89 = B
70–79 = C
60–69 = D
50–59 = F

MISCONCEPTION: If I don’t grade homework and make it count, my students will not complete it. How do I encourage students to take homework seriously if it’s not graded?

Suggestions:

In many classes, homework is scored and included as a significant part of the grade. The purpose of homework is to provide students with the opportunity to practice course outcomes, receive feedback, and learn from their mistakes or misconceptions.  Grading homework and including those grades in the student’s final grade can be especially damaging to struggling students who need additional opportunities to practice.  It is better to reduce the stakes and encourage students to take risks and learn from their mistakes (O’Connor, 2010). 

Download the transcript for this video.


Observe & Analyze

In this Observe & Analyze (OA) section, you’ll view a video that depicts an instructor implementing some of the module practices effectively, while other practices may need slight adjustments or improvements. As you analyze the video, you will gain a deeper understanding of the module practices and gain insight into some common pitfalls.

Watch

Download the transcript for this video.


Implementation Resources

  • Implementation Resources

This section includes resources to support your implementation of the practices presented in the module.

Download all of the implementation guides for this module.

Ensure students understand your grading practices 

Explain your grading practices

It is important for students to know how they are going to be graded from the very beginning of the course and throughout. Be transparent about your grading by including an explanation of your approach to grading in the syllabus and include an explanation of how each assignment is graded and how individual grades fits into their overall grade. These approaches give students the information they need to be successful.

Download a resource on explaining your grading practices.

Support students in tracking their grades

When students track their own academic progress, they are encouraged to take ownership of their learning and are more likely to persist when hit with challenges and to take steps to meet their goals, and are more intrinsically motivated (Black, 2017).

Download a resource on supporting students in tracking their grades.


Use practices that increase the accuracy of grades

Use standards-based grading

Standards-based grading aligns grading and assessment to clearly identified course standards, competencies, or objectives. Unlike traditional grading practices that are based on an accumulation of points or percentages, standards-based grading emphasizes the most recent and accurate demonstration of student performance relative to those standards (Buckmiller et al., 2017).

Download a resource on standards-based grading.

Reduce bias by focusing on academic achievement

To be accurate, grades must correctly represent a student’s level of academic performance on course outcomes. Including participation, attendance, or other nonacademic behaviors in the grade calculations yields a grade that does not clearly represent a student’s academic performance (Feldman, 2018).

Download a resource on reducing bias by focusing on academic achievement.

Use inclusive grading practices to increase equity

Despite our best efforts to be objective, grading student work may involve personal biases. Implicit bias, stereotype threat, and even our previous experiences with a student can subconsciously impact our grading practices. Although biases cannot be eliminated, their impact on grading can be mitigated by the use of grading practices that reduce bias.

Download a resource on inclusive grading practices.

Use grading scales that ensure accurate measurements

To ensure that grades accurately communicate student achievement, instructors must consider the effects of calculating central tendency or an average and the effect of extreme marks, especially zeros (O’Connor, 2010). Instead of using the 100-point scale, minimum grading and a four-point scale can help to make grades more accurate representations of student achievement.

Download a resource on grading scales that ensure accurate measurements.

Assign greater weight to more recent and summative evidence of mastery

Summative assessments are designed to determine if the student has learned the content or mastered the skills addressed in the unit, module, or course. Formative assessments and assignments allow students to practice those skills and help to identify where they may benefit from reteaching, additional resources, or further practice. If we include grades from formative assessments, we are including “information while the student is in the midst of learning, including their mistakes” (Feldman, 2018).

Download a resource on assigning greater weight to summative assessments.


Use grading practices that motivate students

Provide opportunities to use feedback for improvement

Offering redos and retakes allows students to make mistakes and then to have the opportunity to correct those mistakes. This process helps to motivate students to keep learning because they have a chance to recover from the initial performance and show improvement (Feldman, 2018).

Download a resource on providing opportunities to use feedback for improvement.

Structure opportunities for students to reflect on and improve their performance

The way we grade should motivate students to achieve academic success, support a growth mindset, and give students opportunities for redemption (Feldman, 2018). Equitable grading means that we want students to be intrinsically motivated to learn, so our goal should be to help them focus on learning rather than on grades. Providing opportunities for them to reflect on and improve their performance is how we build students’ self-regulation skills and sense of self-efficacy.

Download a resource on structuring opportunities for students to reflect on and improve performance.

Download “The Best Ways to Learn, an infographic on study skills.

Mitigate the negative impact of late work

Penalties for late work distort the achievement record for students and can harm student motivation (O’Connor, 2010). Although we do want students to be responsible and submit assignments in a timely fashion, reducing grades for work that is submitted late distorts the student’s grade because we are now grading behaviors, not academic achievement.

Download a resource on mitigating the negative impact of late work.



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