This semester’s grading scheme is based on the one I developed (by stealing ideas from a lot of different people) in Fall 2010. However, I started incorporating more inquiry-based learning in my courses, and so I have adapted this scheme to incorporate the IBL stuff.
Before I describe the system, here are the goals I have for any grading scheme:
- I wanted a grading scheme that acknowledges that students learn at different rates. I do not want a student who understands the material well at the end of the semester to be penalized for not having something down in the first month of the semester.
- I wanted a grading system that gave specific feedback on how the students can improve. A student who gets every “Find Tangent Lines” question (see below) wrong on a quiz knows better how to improve than a student who gets a 70%.
- I wanted a grading system that requires that students demonstrate success over an extended period of time—cramming one night won’t lead to success.
- I wanted to create low-stakes grading system. Students are not penalized for getting a question wrong on a quiz; they simply do not help themselves.
- I wanted to create a grading system that requires that students learn the material. There is no way around it—students need to learn all of the skills in order to get a decent grade.Then I tried to figure out what a C-student should know, what a B-student should know, and what an A-student should know. I decided that a C-student should be able to do the mechanical skills with some fluency, but not necessarily much else (this is clearly debatable). An A-student should be able to solve challenging problems, and the B-student should be somewhere between those (note: this clearly needs some more thought).With these thoughts in mind, I decided to have a two-tiered grading system. I devised a quiz system to determine whether a student would get at least a C; the remainder of the grading system is based on student presentations of problems and a final exam. For those of you who are into this sort of thing, here is my syllabus, which spells everything out in detail.
The quiz portion is a standards-based grading system. I chose the following procedures for my calculus I students:
- Graphing Functions
- Shifting and Scaling Functions
- Definition of Derivative
- Tangent Lines
- Second Derivatives
- Linear Approximations
- Fundamental Theorem of Calculus
For my calculus III students:
- Parametrizing Curves
- Tangent Plane Approximations
- Lagrange Multipliers
- Double Integrals
- Triple Integrals
- Line Integrals
- Parametrizing Surfaces
- Surface Integrals
Each quiz question is tied to one of these topics (here is a recent quiz). In order to get credit for a quiz question, it has to be completely correct—no sign errors, arithmetic errors, etc. On the other hand, there is no penalty for a wrong answer. I grade these simply by counting how many problems each student gets completely correct during the semester. A student who gets four questions in a topic (eight questions for “Derivatives” and “Integrals” in calculus I) is declared “done” with that topic, and can stop answering questions on that topic. Once a student is “done” with every topic, that student has successfully completed the quiz portion of the class.
I really like this set up. Many, MANY students who have been struggling all semester are making a lot of progress on the quizzes now (I have been telling the students all semester long that they should expect the graph of their quiz numbers versus time to be concave up). Moreover, the students have to figure out everyone of the processes—they cannot slide by with a 60% on, say, The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, and make up for it with 90%s in other topics.
In short, I really like this system because it is both easy on the students (missing any one quiz question does not hurt a student’s grade, unlike the usual “averaging” system) and hard on them (they are expected to gain some fluency with every single topic).
A student will get at least a C in the course if and only if that student completes the quiz portion of the course. I really believe this should be attainable for almost every student, since these topics are really just a matter of following recipes (the only exceptions are students who have exceptionally poor algebra skills).
To determine whether a student gets a C, B, or A, stay tuned for next week’s post.
(Image “Grading cutoffs” by flickr user ragesoss)Advertisements