Assessment

I hate grading. I hate worrying about grades, I hate being measured by my grades, and I hate grading other peoples work as a TA. It offers such an interesting dimension into how well learning and teaching are taking place. On one hand, it should offer a generally objective way to assess all students, this should lead to less bias and more openness in how assessment is taking place. If there is a rubric, or clear point values, and extremely well thought-out value assigned to questions/assignments/work then it should be a really great measure. But there are so many assumptions that grades are based on that make the system totally broken. Most assignments, I believe, are pretty lazily written, syllabi are created in haste a week after the semester has started, and rubrics and questions can be unclear and graded by individuals who didn’t craft the assignment. I got so frustrated in grading that I was responsible for understanding exactly what the professor wanted them to know, exactly what the student is communicating on a page, and had to figure out a point value between those two things. There are some courses with a hundred hours of course work all graded throughout the semester that make up 50% of their grade, and then there are courses with one huge paper at the end that maybe takes 10 hours to write that is responsible for 60% of a grade. There are so many individual things that are supposed to be accounted for in a scale out of 100 that don’t make any sense. So, the objectivity objectively fails.

I said I really hate grading, but I love getting a good grade on something I worked hard on. I love getting a good grade because it feels like recognition. I love getting recognition because it feels like I was identified subjectively as good at something, knowledgeable about something, and the instructor knows that I am. Grading totally fails to do those things even if that’s what it feels like. But a system of individual assessment would be extremely bloated and inefficient, easily effected by bias, and in general wouldn’t work. It also becomes such a difficult balance in understanding what the instructor needs to teach their students and what the students can reasonably and reliably learn, and be held accountable for learning. It’s so hard in one system to both objectively assess all students, while still giving them recognition for their personal achievements and progress.

I think with grading, it’s a broken system that is in place, and isn’t going anywhere. Like any other broken system, the only thing people can do when they recognize this, is “game” it. This is really unfortunate because I think on the student side, gaming the system is usually easier with privilege. Understanding how a system works and being able to make gains from the shortcomings is definitely a central aspect of privilege. That’s why I think in some of the readings they suggest ways to game the system on the professors end, which typically consist of limiting the burden of grades. These ways like completion based grading measure amount of effort put in instead of a direct understanding, giving multiple opportunities on assignments also measure effort as well as some understanding, and relaxing due dates allows for less stress in getting something in at the exact time something needs to be in. I thing grading generally puts a burden on all, but as an instructor, they have the most power in finding a way to have students learn, have a generally accurate assessment, and encourage effort.

4 thoughts on “Assessment

  1. Hi Earl,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the difficult balance that comes with grading. It does make sense that students would work to make the assessment play to their advantage, and we should stop being surprised when they do. I think a huge problem is that grades do not correlate to the skills that employers want. As you mentioned, why shouldn’t students be able to take multiple tries on an assignment? It is very common for employees to be able to help each other and go through review before a project is finalized. Though the assignment creation and grading can take more time, I hope that we have gained the ability to assess more fairly.

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  2. Thanks for sharing! I’ve also struggled with grading. I want everyone to do well and it can be difficult to reconcile that with grading for correctness. I usually do my best to grade “based on wrong answer” but it is a very time consuming process, especially if they got the first step in the problem wrong.

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  3. Hi again Earl,
    Slowly working my way through all your blog posts at this point haha but I think what you talked about grading is just about how everyone feels. We’ve been put in this situation where this is the norm and anything that is different receives some sort of scrutiny or some backlash from students in that they don’t enjoy their consistency taken away from them, and especially that sense of accomplishment when students score well. I think that some of the documents provided during this module provide some examples of what we can do to get away from this typical grading but I feel as if it hasn’t caught on nearly as quickly enough. I’ve seen success with students when assignments are little bit more open-ended and open rather than simply answering questions but it’s difficult to visualize what this would look like for all sorts of classes.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your emotions and reflection on grading. I understand how a good grade feels like being highly credited because such association, getting a not good grade, sometimes targets self-confidence and judgment. I agree with you that grading can be a burden in many cases, but what could be the replacement? I can think of assignments and projects, but maybe if the examination process goes through some enhancements and modifications, it can be more effective and valuable.

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