One of the questions people ask us frequently is, “How do you grade student work?”
Before answering how we grade student work, let me share a bit about “what” we grade. In other words, what kinds of activities do we include that help us evaluate a student’s learning progress and outcomes in a course?
When we design our courses, we begin by creating a course outline that identifies a specific learning outcome and the level of mastery a student should achieve for that outcome based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised) scale. As we create coursework, we work backward from those outcomes and mastery levels.
We use a variety of assessment and assignment types to reach our goal of demonstrable mastery. This includes:
- Check Your Knowledge Quizzes
- Module Quizzes
- Evidence Assignments
- Summative Exams
We encourage students to become familiar with the information presented in a module by having a short, Check Your Knowledge quiz at the end of each lesson. Students can take this quiz as many times as they like to check their comprehension.
When they have completed all of the lessons in a module, students will then take a longer, formative quiz that covers all of the information from the module (4-6 lessons). This formative quiz is generally a mix of familiar questions from the Check Your Knowledge quizzes and new questions that cover additional elements. All of these questions are focused on the outcomes for the module.
Our evidence assignments provide students an opportunity to apply the information they are learning. Evidence assignments are multi-step thinking and writing activities that: (1) target levels 3-6 on Bloom’s Taxonomy, (2) focus on the demonstrable understanding of concepts, (3) encourage “centrifugal” learning, and (4) help students develop stronger media and digital literacy skills.
Finally, at the halfway and end points of our courses, students must complete proctored summative exams that cover the course material studied to that point in the course. In writing, communication, and other skill-based courses, students will be asked to demonstrate their skill mastery as part of a summative exam experience. Currently, we use Examity as our 3rd party proctoring service.
When it comes to actually evaluate student work in these different activities and assessments, we use different methods of grading or evaluation.
Objective System Grading — Our Check Yout Knowledge quizzes and module quizzes are objective (Multiple Choice, Multiple Select, etc.) with each question having a correct answer and multiple distractors. The grading of these quizzes is “automated,” meaning the online system provides an immediate result at the end of the quiz, as well as feedback on the answers selected.
Rubric-Based Grading — For our evidence activities and other complex assignments (essays, speeches, etc.), we create (1) step-by-step instructions to ensure that students understand the assignment requirements and can produce the desired results, (2) a detailed grading rubric that lets students see precisely how and on what basis they are being evaluated and graded. This rubric provides a checklist for students to use when completing an assignment and is also the guideline used by instructors when providing assignment feedback.
We also use rubric-based grading to help students to improve their ability to evaluate their own work. To achieve this goal, we have students use grading rubrics to provide peer evaluation and to complete self-evaluations of assignments.
– Rob Reynolds, Ph.D.