Faculty care about what students learn, but students are very concerned about their grades. Probably the most important element of grading is fairness. Ask yourself:
- Is the exam/quiz/paper representative? Are the questions in proportion to the time spent or emphasis placed?
- Are exam questions (or paper expectations) clear and unambiguous?
- Can you develop an objective grading scheme that will enable you to explain to students exactly how points were awarded (or deducted)?
Students may want to see you to go over their assignment grade. Some are sincerely interested in self-improvement; some are concerned about the numbers!
First step: be consistent and fair
- Use a grading template.
- Note how many points you award (or deduct) for particular answers.
- Grade one question (or a page of questions) for the entire class, rather than grading exams start-to-finish for each individual student.
- If you’re confident you’ve been fair, be firm.
Of course, it’s always possible that you made an error in grading (or adding!) and you should make adjustments to grades when that happens.
The issue may be the grade, or it may be about self-image.
Emphasize that grades don’t necessarily always reflect what a student knows; anyone can have a bad moment on an exam or not express a thought as clearly as intended. We’re not all right all the time – and we’re still “okay.” That’s as important a lesson as the content of any course. Learning how to recognize our own mistakes, how to face them and to come up with ways to make fewer in the future is an important part of learning and of life.