New Grading Policy

While I’m not completely restructuring my grading policy, I am providing an opportunity for students to take risks without fear of harming their grades (the old GPA concern). Since this is a common concern from students and parents, I’ve thought quite a bit about how to allow students to experiment, to take risks, without fear of losing a grade.

This new policy (listed below) should also change the motivation for doing an assignment. The points essentially don’t matter, but the learning does. Instead of students asking about how many points an assignment is worth, they could start asking what skills need to be shown or what learning must be demonstrated.

I will, on my syllabus, admit that this new policy is completely subjective and only up to my judgment. Here it is. I will give the student an ‘A’ if a student:

  • turns in every assignment completed and on time,
  • participates fully in every activity,
  • makes up all missing work from absences in an allotted amount of time, and
  • tries his/her absolute best on every assignment.

Too often I have provided assignments with multiple layers of difficulty, and the only reason a student would not attempt the more difficult options–even though he/she was very interested in the assignment option–was the worry over the impact on the student’s overall grade. Maybe this will help. I already allow rewrites on papers and second attempts on projects, but I think this adds a layer of security for my students.

I’m not naive enough to think all students will rise to this challenge, but I do believe some will and others may follow suit. If this option even allows a small number of students to strive for more, then I feel it’s worth the attempt.

What do you think of this?


6 thoughts on “New Grading Policy

  1. Mystery Teacher

    I actually like it. It sort of leaves the responsibility up to the student where it belongs. I have had students who worked harder than anyone else in class and due to language difficulties, couldn’t pass the tests. This one student did not miss an assignment all year, even when he was absent. This would give them the grade they “earn” based on what they produce.

  2. The Science Goddess

    If I can just play “Satan’s Little Helper” here for a moment…I’d ask you to reflect on what is most important to you as a teacher: that students get a good grade or that students learn. If you care more about grades than learning, that is what your new policy will get you. If you want meaningful engagement with learning, your policy is going to take you in the opposite direction. As I wrap up my EdD (focused on motivational practices), I can tell you that the ed research is pretty solid on this. As Mystery Teacher points out, you’re only going to end up giving grades based on what kids produce, not necessarily what they have learned.

  3. drpezz Post author

    SG, I agree, to a degree (and I love the phrase “Satan’s Little Helper”).

    I really don’t anticipate that very many students will be able to meet the guidelines I set for the ‘A’ option but do think it will get more students to take the risks I mentioned.

    We do have mastery assignments which do have to be passed. No matter the grade a student has, the kids have to pass the course requirements to move on to the next course in the sequence. Because of these major assignments each semester, I will be assured of the students’ learning regardless of the grade given.

    For example, every Sophomore English student must pass in the first semester three specific grammar mastery tests, two sentence structure mastery tests, a literary analysis paper, a persuasive speech/essay, a literary terms mastery test, and a couple literature exams (proving their basic understandings of major works read). This ensures the basic competencies are met, and every teacher who instructs this course assesses the students with these course requirements.

    I think this is my back-up for the policy since I’ll be assured students met the course requirements.

    Maybe the only scores entered should be the course requirements?

    This would probably match up better with the research and with your standards-based grading practices (I believe you use standards-based grading only).

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