Alternatives to Grading Series: Halfway Point

By Julia Brown

After running the first two workshops of this four-session series, I wanted to stop and reflect on the workshops thus far. I was a bit nervous going into the first of the workshops, “Why Re-Evaluate Traditional Grading Practices.” Even before the workshop ran, I received emails from faculty expressing concerns about what the workshop series would entail, and I thought that could set the tone for the entire series. Rather than dictating what faculty should or shouldn’t do, I wanted to open up a space of reflection about our grading practices and present alternative models that could be adopted and adapted to fit a multitude of courses. So, instead of ignoring the emails, I decided to make space for attendees to voice their concerns at the end of the first workshop and I am glad I did.

What was abundantly clear from our discussion was that all the attendees were concerned about their students above all else. Their interest in this workshop series arose from inequities brought to the fore by COVID-19 and their hesitation at changing grading practices stemmed from concerns about student anxieties and long-term success. The voicing of these concerns led to deeper reflection about the grading system, its foundations, and its meaning outside the academy.

The second workshop, “Contract Grading,” took us from bigger picture questions about traditional grading to the particulars of one alternative model. After a brief presentation on contract grading, I once again opened up the end of the workshop to discussion. I was excited to see that not only were questions being asked, but faculty were imagining ways in which contract grading could be adapted into their courses at the assignment level and beyond. What was clear from this conversation is that contract grading might not work in every discipline or for every assessment, and that is okay. The takeaway from this series so far is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all grading model, and that interrogating and reflecting upon our own grading practices can lead to innovative ideas. I can’t wait for the discussion in the final two workshops, “Ungrading” and “Mastery Based Grading!”

“Why Re-Evaluate Traditional Grading Practices”

“Contract Grading”

Post photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

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