Grading Tips

It is very important to students that assignments are graded fairly and it is very important to instructors to provide feedback that is meaningful to students. 

Questions to Consider about Grading

  • Will I grade on an absolute (criterion-referenced) standard, on a relative (norm-referenced) standard, on subjective determinations of student learning, on student-teacher contracts, or on some other method of grading?
  • What are my reasons for choosing the method I will use?
  • What do I consider outstanding performance?
  • How should an average student perform?
  • What are my reasons for allowing or not allowing students opportunities to earn extra credit?
  • What are my values concerning student attendance, class participation, and completion of assignments?
  • Will I depend upon a single method for assessing students’ learning, or will I use a variety of methods (tests, writing assignments, oral presentations)?
  • Have I described my grading plan adequately to students in writing in the course syllabus and orally at the beginning of the course?
  • How will I handle late or missing assignments?

Some tips on grading an assignment

  • Determine and state the educational objectives of each activity.
  • Prepare students for formal assessments by using activities of a similar challenge level.
  • Consider whether all assignments need to be graded; would a check-plus/minus system work?
  • Save time in writing comments by creating a common error key.
  • Use appropriate decimal places in grading to distinguish among different qualities of work.
  • Grade the same question or paper section of all students at one time to focus your attention.
  • Establish teachable moments like conferences or post-exam review to help students correct errors.
  • Be consistent by using a grading rubric.

Design a Grading Rubric

Grading rubrics help to achieve both objectives.  A rubric is a scoring tool that defines the criteria for “what counts.”

To design a grading rubric, consider:

  • What components are you looking for in the answers to this assignment?
  • What is the relative weight of these components? Are they equally important?
  • What is excellent performance on this assignment? What is average performance?

More on Rubrics

Walvoord, B. E. and Anderson, V. J. (1998) Effective Grading (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco). Also check out the following websites from other universities which have sample rubrics appropriate for grading essays and papers.

California State University at Chico A rubric for assessment of student learning

Classroom Assessment Techniques

In addition to grading formal written assignments, instructors will often want to evaluate work done in the classroom.  Here are some techniques that might be useful to consider:

Focused Listing

Instructor selects a topic or concept. Students have a limited time to write as many related words, phrases, or topics as they can. Students share their lists with the class (students can call out terms that are then written on the board). This activity can be done either at the beginning or the end of a lecture. Good for a survey or introductory course with lots of new terms to learn.

Minute Paper

Instructor chooses a question (often “what was the most important thing you learned today” or “what important question remains unanswered”) to which the students have one minute to respond. This activity may be done at the beginning of the lecture to assess student knowledge or to motivate their learning,  or at the end of a lecture to assess what students have learned. 

Content, Form, and Function Outlines

Instructor chooses a short relevant text. After reading the text, students should be able to answer what, how and why questions in an outline format. Newspaper articles or news video may be appropriate. Good for showing the application of their knowledge to everyday events.

One Sentence Summary

Instructor chooses a topic that the students must summarize in one sentence (“who does what to whom, when, where, how and why?”). Students have a defined period of time to summarize. Must be a topic that you can summarize and that does not have too many answers or parts.

Student-Generated Test Questions

Instructor chooses topics that will be covered on the test and determines the kinds of questions that will be asked. The instructor then allows the students to generate a limited number of questions following the format determined by the instructor. Allow all students to see all questions before the test.

(Angelo, T. A. and Cross, K. P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers)