My Grading Philosophy
A grade is……….
“an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extend to which a student has attained an undefined level of mastery of an unknown portion of an indefinite amount of material.”
(Dressel, 1957, p.6)
Dressel, P. (1957). Facts and fantasy in assigning grades. Basic College Quarterly 2, 6.
I believe that grading is one of the most challenging aspects of the educational profession. Although I have read many literature sources on proper assessment tools and techniques, I am strongly convinced that most educators use a lot of intuition to assess their students. I believe that learning is the ultimate goal of taking a class, not getting a grade. If I had my way, I would not assign grades. Rather I would have interactive lectures, create practical assignments to develop critical thinking skills, and provide feedback without assigning grades. However, in reality, it is difficult for a university to offer educational services without a system to assess mastery of classes taken. Since part of my job is to assign grades, which indicate mastery of specific course objectives, I try my best to assign the grade that is consistent with university requirements, public and students expectations.
My grading philosophy guides me in this challenging and balancing process. I believe that students earn their grades. It is not an easy process to receive an A+ in courses I design and deliver. Students need to work extra hard to achieve the highest grade in the course. My students remind me that my assignments are very challenging, and they are expected to put a lot of efforts to demonstrate their mastery of course learning objectives. I tell students that professional practice is much harder than the controlled learning environment that I create, and they need to get used to the challenge if they choose human services as their future career. Social workers do not choose the profession because it is easy; they choose it because it is hard, but the hard work allows to make positive changes that impact millions of Canadians and people around the world. While I acknowledge that it is very challenging to achieve an A+, I also believe that every student can potentially earn an A+ and even if this does not happen in the course I taught them, there will be many more opportunities to improve in the future. I completely disagree with student entitlement to a particular grade. When students state to me that they are an A+ students but produce not an A+ work based on approved course requirements I am unable to assign an A+ grade. Every student has only one attempt to submit their work for grading in the courses I design to teach. If a student requires accommodations, I will provide them to the extent that is approved by the university regulations, but once the work is submitted for grading, then I use assignment requirements to assign the final grade. Once the grade is assigned I rarely change the assigned grades unless student provided a very detailed written explanation of where I made an error in assigning the grade. To earn an A+, which stands for exceptional, a student has to do an outstanding work throughout the whole course. I want my students always to produce excellent work and if they are unable to demonstrate outstanding work in one assignment I encourage them to improve in the next submission. I assign final grades once I read all submitted work. I am always using grading criteria and rubrics to ensure the consistency of grading. As grading is the most time-consuming part of my job, I always try to dedicate additional time and to prepare general feedback, so students know where they can improve and how they did in comparison to other class members. Life does not curve and neither do I.
Students grades depend on a particular set of criteria, which are listed in course grading rubrics. Ideally, these criteria will reflect students abilities. However, due to many factors that are often outside of students control, they perform well below their abilities. If a student performs below their abilities student needs to remember that their grade only reflects their performance at particular time frame and not their potential and abilities. I try to emphasize those points when I provide feedback. My feedback is designed not to show where students fail to meet the established grading criteria but to show how they can improve their future work. I have a firm belief that if the student passes the assignment (C range grades), they are meeting the minimum criteria that are required to continue their learning journey. I always sympathize with the situation of students who are under enormous pressure to take on both a heavy course load and a heavy workload. I have been there myself. However, it is up to each student to judge how much they can take on without impairing their academic performance at the specific time and ask for accommodation when needed before submitting assignments for grading. Once the assignment is sent I am required to assign the grade and follow established university requirements for each grade range.
I will not provide any individual student with unique opportunities for additional work for credit that are not available to all my students; that is one of the main reasons I do not allow assignment re-submission. I do not buy the idea that quantity of work can make up for the poor quality of work. Some students seem to look for extra credit opportunities as a way to just pile up more and more work, regardless of quality, and thereby add more and more points to raise their grade. I am adamant that a greater quantity of C work is still a C range grade. Quality is what counts in assigning each grade, not mere quantity of material handed in.
In conclusion, if students have any questions whatsoever about how I grade, they are encouraged to come and ask me. Each student has the right to be informed about every aspect of their received grade. Students need to be aware that if they ask me to re-grade their work, their original grade can be either lowered, increased or stay the same. After a student explained to me in writing why they are not satisfied with their current grade and suggested the grade that s/he should receive and if I disagree with their position students can submit a grade appeal to the faculty for review. Grade appeals help me to monitor my grades and better align them with the university requirements.