Grading
Both assessment and evaluation are used for a variety of purposes. One of these is to assign grades to student performance. In this session we took a look at grading.


1. Give three purposes for grading in an online class. Explain each one and then provide an example or guideline for accomplishing each purpose.

In his lecture, Grading Practice and Policy, Professor Newberry states that in the best of situations grading gives the instructor valuable information about how students engage and perform in a class and it enables the instructor to modify instruction, if necessary, to achieve better results. It also give students equally valuable information about their performance. For instance, if grading includes feedback, students can work to improve their performance.

Even though grading is simply a custom, and one that many have rejected as unfair, outdated, and onerous, we continue to do it because it does serve some useful purposes. These include:

  • Monitoring student engagement – For online instructors it’s difficult to know if students are actively participating as required or expected. The only way to do this is by requiring check-ins, posts, and/or assignments on a regular basis. The ETEC course I’m currently taking each have these requirements. But without the grading aspect, would student’s even bother? The specter of getting a grade ensures that most students will comply..
  • Shaping student performance – If an assignment is graded in a timely manner, with adequate feedback, the student will know whether their understanding of the topic is accurate. The student can either move forward from that point and build on that knowledge or reiterate depending on the feedback. I don’t think this is so different in an online class than in a F2F class but the absence of in class spontaneous discussions make the instructors feedback even more critical in shaping student performance.
  • Motivating students – By grading and providing feedback, students will know their work is important, that the instructor cares and is interested in their progress. Knowing that what you do matters is a motivating factor. And even though students stress about their grades they always seem eager to find out how they did and what their teacher says about what they did. Without regular F2F contact, with its ease of interaction, grading feedback is especially important in an online class.

2. You have been called to consult with a university which is about to create a brand new totally online graduate program in leadership education. As part of your consultation you have been asked to provide a short written policy (for the student and instructor handbooks) related to grading policy. List (bullet list) the top five issues your policy will address.

All graduate courses must post a course description, syllabus, and required texts on the campus CMS prior to the first day of class.

All graduate course CMS pages must include:

  • the competencies the course will address
  • the course objectives
  • the expected outcomes

The course description must include the Grading Policy which must include the following:

  • System to be used – May be points, letters, numbers, percentages but must be defined and explained.
  • Due dates and late submission policy – Instructor’s discretion but must be outlined on the syllabus.
  • Point value for participation – Instructor’s discretion but must be outlined on the syllabus.
  • Grading rubric if applicable.
  • Final requirement for each college letter grade (or Pass/Fail grade if applicable).
  • Minimum requirement for an Incomplete.
  • A link to the College Academic Honesty/Dishonesty Policy.

3. As part of the consultation with the university on creating an online program you have been asked to create a rubric that can be used across all program classes to grade the online discussions. The idea is to provide a single rubric that is generalized enough to provide a guide for student engagement in the discussion, and for instructors to be able to grade the discussions with a minimum of effort. Students in these classes are all professional educators with a college education. Each class is required to have one discussion each week and the discussion is the only planned method for student-student interaction in the class. It has been decided that discussions will be worth 30 points and this represents 30% of the total points available in the session. The rubric you create must be simple for the instructor to use but specific enough so that students clearly understand what they are to do and why they get the grade they receive.

This was my most daunting task this week. And after doing some research I was no less daunted. But I clearly understand the importance of having a rubric for both the instructor to use as an assessment tool and so the students will know what’s expected of them in an online discussion board. There are literally thousands of rubrics for assessing online discussion on the web and dozens of articles written on the subject. I found two articles in particular, Wyss, Freedman & Siebert (2014) and Edelstein and Edwards (2002), very helpful in my initial attempt to build a rubric in fact I thought the Edelstein and Edwards rubric would work well with just a tweaking of the points.

Rubric for Assessing Effectiveness of Student Participation in Online Discussions

References

Edelstein, S., & Edwards, J. (2002). If you build it, they will come: building learning communities through threaded discussions. eLearn Magazine. April. Retrieved from
http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=566829

Wyss, V., Freedman, D., & Siebert, C. (2014). The development of a discussion rubric for online courses: standardizing expectations of graduate students in online scholarly discussions. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 58(2), 99-107. doi:10.1007/s11528-014-0741-x

4. Choose a topic that is familiar to you and create three excellent learning objectives. Explain why the objectives you create are excellent.

One of our courses at Cerritos College is LIBR 50, a .5 unit course designed to familiarize students with basic but valuable library resources that promote academic success.

Expected Outcomes of the Course:

  • By the end of this course, the student will:
    • Navigate through basic features of the library homepage.
    • Locate books in print and online.
    • Locate articles from databases.

These objectives are excellent because they easily allow the instructor to assess the students’ mastery of important basic library skills. Students can be assessed using a skills exercise on their ability to:

  • Identify various types and formats of information sources.
  • Recognize and understand the difference between types of sources.
  • Demonstrate their mastery of the library homepage.
  • Demonstrate their ability to select the appropriate resources.

5. Describe an eLearning activity that will have students meet one or more of the objectives you just created.

The following skills exercise focuses on using the Cerritos College online catalog. The ability to find the online catalog on the library home page and use it to locate and decipher a bibliographic record is best taught as a guided search, especially in the community college at the basic skills level. This sort of exercise would be posted on TalonNet in the Assignments module of the course. Students submit the completed assignment via TalonNet as an attachment or email a document to me.

The Library Catalog – 20 Points

Search for these books in the Cerritos College Library online catalog.

  • Use the information provided in bold to find the record in the catalog.
  • You will do three searches – Title, Author, Subject.
  • Fill in the blanks with the information you find in the online catalog.
  1. Title Search Into thin air

Author
Call Number
Place of Publication
Publisher
Date
Click on the title to get the full record. How many reviews are listed for
this book?

  1. Author Search  Ward, Peter

How many books by Peter Ward does the library own?
Give the full title of the book that was illustrated by David W. Ehlert.
Call Number
Click on the title to get the full record. List three Subject Terms for this book:

  1. Subject Search Hurricanes

How many books in the catalog have this Subject Heading?
Limit your results to books published since 2009. How many remain?
Find the one about Hurricane Katrina:
Author
Title
Call Number
Publisher
Place of Publication
Date

6. Explain how you will grade the student work in the above activity. For example you may want to provide a rubric or describe other methods used.

This exercise is graded on a point basis without using a traditional rubric. The assignment is worth 20 points. Each full correct answer is worth 1 point. Depending on the question, a partially correct answer can receive ½ point, for example providing the author’s last name but not the first name or providing the call number without the location designation or date.

7. Explain how you will provide feedback to the student in the above activity. Include an example of your feedback if possible.

The assignment grades (points) are posted in the Assignments module of TalonNet with comments in the Feedback section. Students receive an auto email notification when assignments are graded. The TalonNet Assignments module is configured to sync with the Gradebook, so grades (points) are available in the Gradebook as soon as they’re posted in the Assignments module. The Gradebook keeps a running total of points achieved. Assignment feedback is only available in the Assignments module in TalonNet, but I email students who have had difficulty with assignments. Students will be given the opportunity to re-do the assignment if the skill level has not been achieved. This will be indicated in the Feedback area as well as via email. Students are encouraged to come to the library for one-on-one assistance with skills that they are having difficulty with.

8. Quote your best entry from this week’s Blackboard discussion. Explain why you chose it and what it demonstrates about your understanding, learning process etc.

Both threads this week got me thinking about how I grade and provide feedback. The following post on the Practice and Policy of Online Grading thread made me consider how my practices would differ if I were teaching in a fully online environment. I’m not really sure if I’m ready for that… I really do like my hybrid set-up. It’s the perfect combination of technology and F2F.

What are some good practices and policies for grading in an online class?

Timeliness and feedback are the two that top my list. The hybrid library skills class I teach is similar to a lab class, with specific library skills exercises each week. I post the assignments online and they are due weekly. Students can email, upload into the CMS, or give me a print copy of the assignment. Regardless of the submission format, I think that timeliness is the most important grading practice. It’s the one most of my students seem to care the most about, so I grade the assignments the week after they are due. And my students look for my comments, not just their grades. I would feel terribly guilty returning an assignment with points taken off but no explanation. Or with “Good Job – 100%” and no acknowledgment of what was good about the work. I provide feedback and explanations on all work and students often ask me about the comments so the grading is an opportunity to take them to a new level of understanding. We use the Sakai CMS at Cerritos and it’s similar to BB in many respects. I post the grades in the CMS Gradebook and add short comments there before I actuclly return the assignment. Then, the next time we meet F2F I return the work in print format with substantial handwritten notes. If the course were purely online, I would have to change that practice and probably use the assignment editor in the CMS to provide feedback. I don’t expect to be teaching fully online, but if I ever do I’d most likely add a discussion board and ask for responses to questions each week, similar to the two ETEC courses I’m currently taking. Those responses can be evaluated and graded as any essay response would be or can just be used to keep the students engaged as suggested in the lecture reading. I’m not really too sure about the requirement that students must respond to posts by others. I find it difficult to follow discussions boards in general and I can’t imagine the time it would take to follow up on every student’s responses to other students’ posts and grade them. But again, for motivation and engagement purposes it’s a good practice.

Other practices that matter:

  • Create objectives or goals for each lesson.
  • Create grading rubrics and share them with students.
  • Ask students to create rubrics.
  • Use grading to monitor activity and guide performance.
  • Ask students to assess themselves.
  • Keep a grading spreadsheet separate from the CMS Gradebook.

9. Identify the student you think was the most important participant in the Blackboard discussion. Explain why and provide at least one quote from that student’s contributions to the Blackboard discussion.

I was impressed by all the teachers this week. I appreciate the fact that they are doing so much in their classrooms that relates to this week’s topic. Laura, Christen, and Carolyne were very active with practical points about grading and rubrics. I liked Laura’s link to 12 Alternatives to Letter Grades in Education because it got many of us talking about which alternatives we thought would work for us. In my case I discovered I do use a combination of two:

Feedback -> Iterate -> Replace -> Repeat if Needed

I do this in my library skills course by giving students the chance to re-do exercises. To me it’s more important that they learn how to use a particular database or know how to construct a search. If it takes three tries, so be it. Practice makes perfect!

10. Reflect on what you have learned this week. What have you learned that has the potential to inform or influence you or your practice of online learning going forward? Explain why.

At this point in time, for better or for worse, our education system still emphasizes grades. As Professor Newberry pointed out in his lecture, this could be simply a custom that traces its roots back to the industrial model where every product was graded, counted, or categorized. But are students products? Should they be reduced to a letter or number? Is this the best way to motivate people to learn and become creative individuals? All these questions came up this week along with some enlightening discussions. Because my college requires grades, I’m thinking about ways to engage and motivate my students using the grading system I must use. This week I was given some valuable checklists and ideas. I also found the information on rubrics especially useful. I have only created a handful of rubrics in cooperation with my librarian colleagues. To tell you the truth I was somewhat intimidated by the thought of creating them. But this week I learned about RubiStar, thanks to Christen, and I’d like to give that tool a try.


Other Discussion Topics This Week

1. Practice and Policy – Online Grading
What are some good practices and policies for grading in an online class?

Timeliness and feedback are the two that top my list. The hybrid library skills class I teach is like a lab, with specific library skills exercises each week. I post the assignments online and they are due weekly. Students can email, upload into the CMS, or give me a print copy of the assignment. Regardless of the submission format, I think that timeliness is the most important grading practice. It’s the one most of my students seem to care the most about so I grade the assignments the week after they are due. And students look for my comments, not just the grades. I would feel terribly guilty returning an assignment with points taken off but no explanation. Or with “Good Job – 100%” and no acknowledgment of what was good about the work. I provide feedback and explanations on all work. We use the Sakai CMS at Cerritos and it’s similar to BB in many respects. I post the grades in the CMS Gradebook and add short comments there, but I return the work in print format with substantial handwritten notes. If the course were purely online, I would have to change that practice.I don’t expect to be teaching fully online, but if I do I’d most likely add a discussion board and ask for responses to questions each week, similar to the two ETEC courses I’m currently taking. Those responses can be evaluated and graded as any essay response would be. I’m not really too sure about the requirement to respond to posts by others. I find it difficult to follow discussions boards in general and I can’t imagine the time it takes to follow up on every student’s responses to other students’ posts. I get a headache just thinking about it.

Other practices that matter:

  • Create objectives or goals for each lesson.
  • Create grading rubrics and share them with students.
  • Use grading to monitor activity and guide performance.
  • Ask students to assess themselves.
  • Keep a grading spreadsheet separate from the CMS Gradebook.

Share a great rubric and discuss why it works.

I don’t use rubrics in my class, but we use them at the end of each semester to evaluate an SLO for our Library Skills course. Two that we developed recently are attached. They work because they’re simple and the skill being evaluated is easy to define.

How much detail is too much in a rubric? What is the balance between explaining what is to be graded, and having too much detail to keep track of when you are grading 30 people in a class?

After reading about rubrics in this lesson I realize I would like to incorporate rubrics into my course. I particularly like the practice of giving students rubrics so they know what is expected. I found this rubric for assessing the scholarly research skills and thought it would be easy for students to understand. It’s not overly complex so it wouldn’t be too difficult to grade using these guidelines. For my library skills course I can see each individual outcome that’s lists being a separate assignment and separate rubric.

2. Promise and Problems of Grading

What are the key issues that you think you will face when doing grading in an online class?

I can tell you right now, for me it’s the technology. I’ll have to become comfortable using Sakai more fully. I’d like to use Assignments module to comment rather than provide handwritten notes. Allowing resubmissions, extending due dates, giving extra credit could all be done on Sakai. I just have to figure it out. I currently use the Tests and Quizzes module sparingly, mostly as “Reading & Research Quizzes” where students can look up answers and select from multiple choices. Would I want to use this module for all my assignments? I’m just not sure…

Is grading even needed anymore? Why can’t we get rid of the concept of grading and move to portfolio review or some other system?

It seems to me there’s really no standard across schools and colleges as to what an A, B, C, D, or F really means in terms of what a student knows about a particular subject. An A at one school could be C at another with both students having acquired the same amount of knowledge. So perhaps it really is time to rethink letter grades. Several distinguished colleges and universities have successfully done so and some K-12 are following suit.

10 Colleges Without Letter Grades

Ditching letter grades for a ‘window’ into the classroom

MPS joins growing number of districts emphasizing performance

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