A nuanced way of grading

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By | Reza Sadeghzadeh

Settling for a lower grade is frustrating when you’re trying to get the grade you want. It’s time to get rid of our old, outdated grading structure!

There is a new way of grading that allows students to get the grade they deserve. It‘s called specification grading. The “specs” grading system has no ambiguities because students will know from the first day of class exactly what grade they will be getting. It sounds too good to be true, but this is how it works.

The professor will tell their students the first day of class that they must successfully meet a set of specification proposed in the syllabus. For instance, to get an A, the student must write four essays, pass three exams, finish two projects and provide the class with one presentation. If a student could settle for a B, they will have to complete and pass fewer tasks. You get the idea.

The professor will also give a token to every student so they can use it to redo an incomplete assignment. Additionally, the instructor will provide more assignments and exams than the amount required to get an A. Therefore; students have a chance to redeem themselves if they fail an assignment or test.

Dr. John Meyer, a Politics professor at Humboldt State University, has experimented with this method of grading.

“[I] very much liked it,” said Meyer. “It encouraged the class to focus on the things that matter.”

Further, the students are inclined to apply themselves more in class since they know exactly what it takes to get the grade they want.

“There’s something wrong with the way we’re grading that isn’t being talked about nearly enough,” said Dr. Linda Nielson, director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University. “Grades [only] account for 2.4% variance of career success.”

Our current grading structure does not fully correlate with how much we learn. Sometimes the difference between a B+ and an A- comes down to the discretion of a professor. In other words, their final decision may be dogmatic and unfair.

It is important for a learning institution to acknowledge all of its options. Now is the time to start talking about a new way of grading that will boost our education so we can focus more on learning than worrying about the uncertainty of our grades.

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