October 26th, 2010

A Great Book on Grading


I’ve just finished reading the second edition of Barbara Walvoord and Virginia Anderson’s book on grading Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College). The book was first published in 1998, and since then it has established itself as the go-to book on grading. I see it referenced more often than any other source on this important topic.

This fine reputation is well deserved, in my opinion. If you don’t have a book on grading and need a well-organized, thorough treatise on all issues related to evaluating students, this is the book I’d recommend. It tells you what you need to know and should consider doing in a straightforward, no-nonsense way. As my previous blog entry and an article I’m working on for the newsletter illustrate, it is full of good ideas. Unlike all too many how-to books, this one doesn’t just offer sensible advice, it backs up what it recommends with research references. It also includes references to lots of other good resources on grading and its associated topics.

This is a book you should have in your teaching library, and I do believe all teachers should have a collection of resources on teaching and learning. It’s part of valuing our profession—recognizing that there are good sources that have collected and integrated important information about aspects of teaching—in this case, grading. So, if you haven’t yet started your library or it’s been a while since you’ve added a book, here’s one to consider. It’s so well organized you can pick it and read what’s of interest or find what you might need to know.

This quote aptly describes all that this book covers. “By ‘grading’ we mean not only bestowing an ‘A’ or a ‘C’ on a piece of student work. We also mean the process by which a teacher assesses student learning through classroom tests and assignments, the context in which good teachers establish that process and the dialogue that surrounds grades and defines their meaning to various audiences. Grading encompasses tailoring the test or assignment to the learning goals of the course, establishing criteria and standards, helping students acquire the skills and knowledge they need, assessing student learning over time, shaping student motivation, planning course content and teaching methods, using in-class and out-of-class time, offering feedback so students can develop as thinkers and writers, communicating about students’ learning to appropriate audiences, and using results to plan improvements in the classroom, department, and institution. When we talk about grading, we have student learning most in mind.” (p. 1)

Reference: Walvoord, B. E. and Anderson, V. J. (2010). Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment. 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass, 2010. (available online from: www.josseybass.com )