We often wonder what we can do to help students engage with the material so they can learn it at a deeper level. Students don’t make that an easy task. They arrive in class having not read the material or having not thought about it in meaningful ways, and that keeps them from being engaged in class. Several years ago, I read George Kuh’s article “What Student Engagement Data Tell Us about College Readiness,” in which he writes, “Students who talk about substantive matters with faculty and peers are challenged to perform at high levels, and receive frequent feedback on their performance typically get better grades, are more satisfied with college, and are more likely to persist” (Peer Review, January 1, 2007, p. 4; italics mine). Here are three ways I try to provide feedback that engages students and not overwhelm myself with grading tasks in the process.
It’s a conversation most faculty would rather not have. The student is unhappy about a grade on a paper, project, exam, or for the course itself. It’s also a conversation most students would rather not have. In the study referenced below, only 16.8 percent of students who reported they had received a grade other than what they thought their work deserved actually went to see the professor to discuss the grade.
At the end of a semester, do you find your office full of students wondering what their grade will be? Are they often complaining that their grade is much lower than they anticipated? It’s OK, we’ve all been there. The total point system approach to grading can reduce grading frustration — for your students and yourself.
We’ve all had conversations with students who want effort counted in their grade: “But I tried so hard … I studied for hours … I am really working in this course.” The question is, should effort count? Less commonly asked, however, is whether it should count in both directions. Students want effort to count when they try hard but their performance doesn’t show it. But what about when an excellent performance results without much effort? Should this lack of effort lower the grade? Beyond these theoretical questions are the pragmatic ones: Can effort be measured fairly, objectively? If so, what criteria are used to assess it?
Sometimes, in informal conversations with colleagues, I hear a statement like this, “Yeah, not a great semester, I doled out a lot of C’s.” I wonder, did this professor create learning goals that were unobtainable by most of the class or did this professor lack the skills to facilitate learning? I present this provocative lead-in as an invitation to reflect upon our presuppositions regarding grading.
Grading serves multiple purposes. While the most obvious purpose is to evaluate students’ work — as a measure of competency, achievement, and meeting the expectations of the course — grading can also be a key to communication, motivation, organization and faculty/student reflection. It’s for that reason that Virginia Johnson Anderson, EdD, calls grading “a context-dependent, complex process.”
How Can I Use Low-stakes Quizzing to Enhance Learning? Program includes a CD with the video presentation, plus supplemental materials, PowerPoint slides, and complete transcript • $99 More quizzes = happier students. Really? You might be thinking just the opposite, but let us explain. A frequent, low-stakes grading strategy, when used correctly, can decrease your
When you give your grading as much care and attention as you give the rest of your course design components, you will start to see improvements in student performance and experience greater personal satisfaction in teaching. Learn how to make positive changes to your grading strategies and tactics.
video Online Seminar • Recorded on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Not so long ago in the blog we explored the weighting of course assignments. The more certain assignments count in the grading scheme, the more time students are likely to devote to them. That makes determining how much each assignments counts an important decision. Since then I’ve come across several reports and some research that suggest we should consider giving students a choice on assignment weightings. For example, if the course contains a number of quizzes and collectively they count for 20% of the grade, a student could decide at the beginning of the course to raise that percentage to 30 with the weight of the major exams decreased by a corresponding amount. Or, say there are three assignments in the course that equal 75% of the grade, the student could designate a weight for each assignment between 15% and 45% but the three must total 75%.
I hope you won’t stop reading once you find out the idea being proposed here involves automating the feedback provided students on papers, projects, and presentations. If you were to look at a graded set of papers and make a list of the comments offered as feedback, how many of those comments have you written more than once? Is the answer many? If so, you should read on.