Three Benefits of “Accumulation Grading with Tagging”

So I decided to give my grading system a name: Accumulation Grading (or Accumulation Grading with Tagging). I just sick of writing “this grading system” or “how I am grading” all of the time.

Here are three benefits that I am seeing from this system. One has been mentioned before here (at least in the comments), one I anticipated, and one I only realized this week.

First, I suspect that there may be some sort of a metacognitive boost with this grading system. Students are forced to reflect on what they have done, and this may be helpful.

Second, grading is much easier when students use different approaches. In a very real way, I am just grading whether their “tags” are legitimate (the are correct, relevant to the problem, and point to a specific part of the solution where it is relevant). This means that students can have wildly different solutions with completely different tags, and they will both get appropriate credit. This hasn’t happened a lot yet, although I imagine it could.

Finally, my new realization is that this grading system may do away with a lot of fighting over grades. For example, a colleague recently complained that when students are asked to “graph functions” in Calculus I, many students were doing so simply by plotting points. My colleague did not want to give them credit, since he intended for them to find intervals of increasing/decreasing/concavity/etc. The students were not happy that they did not receive credit.

This is not an issue in Accumulation Grading with Tagging. Students are welcome to simply plot points to graph a question, but they run into an issue when they start to tag their work with the relevant learning goals (there are none). But nothing is marked wrong (because it isn’t wrong), so there is no real disagree to be had between student and teacher.

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10 Responses to “Three Benefits of “Accumulation Grading with Tagging””

  1. TJ Says:

    Now that I am half a semester into my REAL SBG experiment (linear algebra is much harder than my other course for this),
    How do you keep up with all of the work? Do you have a reasonable system for this?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      I think that this varies by system, but here is what I do:

      1. I completely control the reassessments by only giving them in class. I used to give them outside of class, too, but that made my life crazy.
      2. I mass produce the assessments in the summer/very beginning of the semester. It takes me maybe an hour to write/steal ten questions that get at the same idea if I do it in one sitting, compared to maybe two hours if I write them one at a time.
      3. Related: I put all of the questions in one master .tex file that includes a template for the quizzes. To write a quiz, I edit the master file to indicate which questions will go on the new quiz (I type “Q5” next to the question if it goes on Quiz 5). I then copy the master file, change the file name to, say, 5Quiz.tex, do a find for “Q5,” and copy such questions to the template portion of the file. Repeat until done, compile, and print.
      4. I have a grader for my intro classes.
      5. I create video solutions for all of my quizzes. This is a huge time commitment at the beginning of the semester, but it frees me up from meeting with a lot of students who simply want to find out how to do a quiz problem later.
      6. My system also has binary grading, since students get multiple chances of demonstrating proficiency of a learning goal. This makes grading pretty quick.

      So a lot of the work is front-loaded (writing assessments and videos), but this mostly needs to be done only once per course, with minor tweaking in later semesters.

      What is eating up all of your time?

  2. Joss Ives Says:

    How do cases work where the tagging is done properly, but the solution itself has (perhaps many) errors. I

    • bretbenesh Says:

      It happens quite frequently. I just saw one where a student took the derivative of a polynomial of the form x^5(x-7)^4, but did not use the product rule correctly. So they correctly tagged “I can take the derivative of a polynomial or rational function” correctly, but they did not actually do it right (it is not 5x^4 * 4(x-7)^3).

      I have found that they mostly know what to do (i.e. they tag correctly. Actually, they miss tags, but they generally do not tag incorrectly, which was an early concern of mine); it is mainly a matter of doing it.

  3. Joshua Bowman Says:

    I’ve found that just using SBG/SBAR/SBL (which acronym are we using now?) gets rid of a lot of grade disagreements. Lately I’ve been getting some questions along the lines of “Are the grades curved?” to which the answer is simply “No,” but perhaps indicates that the students haven’t fully bought into the system yet.

    So in this post you’ve listed the good things about AGWT. Are there particular aspects that have been confusing for students?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Josh,

      I agree with you about SBG helping with the disagreements, but I feel like AGwT helps slightly more (my colleague above used SBG).

      I need to do an inventory of where students are soon, but—suprisingly—there has been very little confusion about tagging. I was really scared that students wouldn’t know what to do with the tags, but that is really not the case.

      The only possible “confusing” thing is that some students are missing some of the easier tags. So students are not tagging the D-level goals like “I know when to take a derivative,” when they are actually correctly taking derivatives everywhere. However, I think that this is less due to confusion and more due to the fact that I did not communicate what these goals mean well enough.

      But I have been seriously surprised/impressed/relieved at how easily the students have taken to this. I was ready for the worst, but it has been smooth sailing.

      • Joshua Bowman Says:

        That’s really cool. It’s like students appreciate having ownership of their own education or something. I hope there will be a broader shift towards self-assessment/metacognition in higher education. It’s possibly the most important skill we can help students develop.

        I’ll be thinking about whether I can use a system like this in the spring with my advanced calculus class.

      • bretbenesh Says:

        I just want to make sure that I am not overselling this: I am not sure that students _appreciate_ having ownership. I just think that they are fine doing it. I have a really great bunch of students, so it might be that they are just easy-going.

        But I hope that you are right: I hope my students appreciate that I am trusting them enough to let them figure out how much they are learning. But I don’t actually have evidence of this.

  4. Specification Grading vs Accumulation Grading | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] some of you know, I have pompously started referring to my grading system as Accumulation Grading. When Robert first introduced me to the Nilson’s book, I ordered it through Interlibrary Loan […]

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