Basic Principles of Grading
Grading is not art. Grading is not science. Like everything else in education, including education, including a “science” of education”, grading is a heuristic activity.
My general grading strategy:
1. I always make sure that every student would address every required part of every question. If the manual says, “do this”, including “discuss” or “think about”, etc. they will have to act on that.
2. But I grade the quality of their actions based on the quality of the questions (clarity, specificity, relevance to the material presented before).
3. If a question allows many possible interpretations, and does not require a specific definite and unique answer, I accept almost any writing, as long as it is related to the question.
4. When students are required to “be creative” or “to think”, and that thinking is not bound by definite requirements, then just the fact of being creative or presenting some thinking is sufficient for the full credit.
5. And there might be also a case when students are required to answer a question without being taught how to actually do that, e.g. uncertainties - not much different from asking them to translate a paragraph into Russian - some may know Russian, some may use an online translator, but those who would try to do it on their own using a dictionary would finish with result that technically would deserve an F, but that would not be their fault.
6. Answering a question without being taught is also a case of being creative, because if students are not taught the right strategy, they have to create it (there is a teaching strategy for that, too, but I have not met yet any other instructor who knows it and can do it, plus, its implementation would require much more teaching time than any school can support). Since a physics course has no such objective as “teaching creativity” (this objective would require special assessment and grading), and instructors do not focus on development of such ability, then grading also is based just on a fact of the presence or the absence of something - anything - a student created. But, again, if a student left an empty space, that student does not get any credit for that part.
Various “creative” student activities that usually end up with making a presentation may affect student’s ability to be creative (or affect communication skills, research skills, presenter skills, etc.), but graded mostly on the fact of being present/presented; no one uses creativity, or thinking, or communication as an actual grading parameter. If someone would claim using creativity as an actual grading parameter that one would have to present the specific strategy for developing creativity, the criteria of the level of its development, the specific measuring actions, a grading scale and a grading procedure.
This is why my lab manuals do not have vague, unclear, “creative” questions (if I wanted to make students be creative, I would assign writing an essay). Click here for an example of a very poorly written lab manual from Pivot Interactives (almost all their manuals are equally bad), and compare with some of my manuals (and more).
A quote from the latter publication: “For example, you can take a look at my first lab for the second semester, and this online lab I came across some time ago (also the first lab for the second semester; in the lab file I also placed some notes to pinpoint some issues I found in the lab). On the other hand, some of my labs have found its way to the wider audience. For example, since 2012 I was using this lab in my Summer II course. And recently I found that my manual was used - verbatim! - as an online lab for Pivot Interactives. It's nice to know that other instructors appreciate my material. But it would also be nice to be noted - as the author.”
On the grading within a team.
1. The difference in grading is inevitable.
2. Of course, members of the same team should be trying to minimize those differences
3. “Is the difference too large and needs correction?” The answer to this question must be provided by the person who bears that responsibility and is paid for making such decisions - an administrator/supervisor.
4. based on the decision the supervisor needs to notify the employees what they should do (or not to do).
The supervisor needs to make that decision and tell the team (all or some members) what to do (or not).
Logically, there are only four options a supervisor can say:
1. “do this”
2. “don't do anything”
3. “you chose what you want to do”
4. say nothing at all.
I act only if I was told “do this”.
If my students start asking me why grades have changed (or not, based on their expectation), I am always open, saying that the situation was discussed and the supervisor made a decision to act (or not) in such a specific way, and I was following the decision.
In a way, for some students this could be a teachable moment even more important than physics laws.
I tell my students that an ideal measurement does not exist, every measurement has errors (and in a physics they learn that at first hand), and grading is a measurement, hence grading errors (including systematic) and mistakes happen, and they should send me an email with any grade-related question, and always some do.
Links to additional publications on practice of teaching science:
Voices of my students on my teaching
The minimum of what students should know when taking my physics course (plus a bonus - an example of the strategy for applying the Second Newton’s Law).
What students taking my course need to know about the course (and me, and themselves) (this is the copy of the first lecture, the introduction start 2 minutes 42 seconds after the start of the recording, and ends 1 hour and 33 minutes after; click here for the lecture slides).
My physics demonstration videos (never meant to become an actual teaching tool, but the pandemic forced to rethink that).
Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy: a Handbook For a Science Teacher.
Modeling Instructions, Design Thinking, and Productive Thinking for a Science Teacher.
Graphical approach to classifying physics knowledge
The General Algorithm for Creating a Solution to a Physics problem
What Does "Thinking as a Physicist" mean?
The Essence of the Meaning of ZPD
Teaching tools for fostering understanding of physics learners
“What Math Skills do Students Taking Physics Need to Have?” (and how to measure them)
What is the "Socratic Method"?
How I flipped my class without even knowing (works for everyone!)
From being a Teach-er to becoming a Teach-smith
A Problem v. A Task; the Distinction Matters!
Evaluating Teaching Quality At a University Level
Factual thinking v. integrative thinking, or how we need to teach science
The Deliberate Thinking v. Digging a Trench
Why Zoom Sucks For Teaching And Always Will?
The list of various publications on philosophy and strategies for teaching science courses.
Best of luck with teaching!
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