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Isnt it ironic that untold hours of reading,

listening to lectures, note-taking,


writing papers, doing assignments, and
going to classes are invariably reduced
to one of five letters of the alphabet ?
And after all grueling labor, the only
thing that seems to really matter is
that the letter goes onto a transcript ?

Gronlund
(1998),
a
widely
respected
educational assessment specialist, gave the
following advice :
Base grades on student achievement, and
achievement only. Grades should represent the
extent to which the intended learning outcomes
were achieved by students. They should not be
contaminated by student effort, tardiness,
misbehavior, and other extraneous factors ... If
they are permitted to become part of the grade,
the meaning of the grade as an indicator of
achievement is lost. (pp.174-175)

A questionnaire for you:

a. Language performance of the student as formally


demonstrated
on tests, quizzes and other
explicitly
scored procedures.

b. Your intuitive, informal observation of the students


language performance.

c. Oral participation in class.

d. Improvement (over the entire course period)

e. Behavior in class being cooperative, polite,


disruptive, etc.

f. Effort.

g. Motivation.

h. Punctuality and attendance.

i. How many times the student brings you chocolate


chip
cookies.

1.

2.

3.

4.

It is essential for all components of grading to be


consistent with an institutional philosophy and/or
regulations.
All of the components of a final grade need to be
explicitly stated in writing to students at the
beginning of a term of study.
If your grading system includes items (d) through
(g) in the questionnaire above, it is important for
you to recognize their subjectivity. (improvement,
behavior in class, effort, motivation)
Finally, consider allocating relatively small weights
to items (c) through (h) so that a grade primarily
reflects achievement. (oral participation in class,
improvement, behavior in class, effort, motivation,
punctuality and attendance)

Absolute Grading
The key to making an absolute grading system
work is to be painstakingly clear on
competencies and objectives, and on tests,
tasks, and other assessment techniques that
will figure into the formula for assigning a grade.
Relative Grading
Relative grading is more commonly used than
absolute grading. It has the advantage of
allowing your own interpretation and of
adjusting for unpredicted ease or difficulty of a
test.

Most teachers bring to a test or a course


evaluation an interpretation of estimated
appropriate
distributions,
follow
that
interpretation, and make minor adjustments to
compensate for such matters as unexpected
difficulty. This prevailing attitude toward a
relative grading system is well accepted and
uncontroversial. What is surprising, however, is
that teachers preconceived notions of their
own standards for grading often do not match
their actual practice.

consideration of philosophies of
grading
and
of
procedures
for
calculating grades is not complete
without a focus on the role of the
institution in determining grades.
Being cognizant of an institutional
philosophy of grading is an important
step toward a consistent and fair
evaluation of your students.

In many cultures :
1. It is unheard of to ask a student to self-asses performance.
2. The teacher assigns a grade, and nobody questions the
teachers criteria
3. The measure of a good teacher is one who can design a
test that is so difficult that no student could achieve a
perfect score.
4. Grades of A are reserved for a highly selected few.
5. One single final examination is the accepted determinant
of a students entire course grade
6. The notion of a teachers preparing students to do their
best on a test is an educational contradiction

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

Experience as a teachers
Adeptness at designing feasible tasks
Special care in framing items that are clear and
relevant
Mirroring in-class takss that students have
mastered
Variation of tasks on the test itself
Reference to prior tests in the same course
A thorough review and preparation for the test
Knowledge of your students collective abilities
A little bit of luck

Typically,
institutional
manuals
for
teachers and students will list the
following descriptors of letter grades.
A
excellent
B
good
C
adequate
D inadequate/unsatisfactory
E
failing/unacceptable

For assessment of a test, paper, report, extra-class


exercise, or other formal scored task, the primary
objective of which is to offer formative feedback,
the possibilities beyond a simple number or
letter include.
1. A teachers marginal and/or end comments
2. A teachers written reaction to a students selfassessment of performance
3. A teachers review of the test in the next class
period
4. Peer-assessment of performance
5. Self-assessment of performance
6. A teachers conference with the student

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

A
teachers
marginal
and/or
end
of
exam/paper/project comments
A teachers summative written evaluative
remarks
A teachers written reaction to a students self
assessment of performance in a course
A
completed
summative
checklist
of
competencies
Narrative evaluations of general performance on
key objectives
A teachers conference with the student

Typically,
institutional
manuals
for
teachers and students will list the
following descriptors of letter grades :
A
excellent
B
good
C
adequate
D
inadequate/unsatisfactory
E
failing/unacceptable

The possibilities beyond a simple number or letter


include :
-A teachers marginal and/or end comments
-A teachers written reaction to a students selfassessment of performance
-A teachers review of the test in the next class
period
-Peer-assessment of performance
-Self-assessment of performance
-A teachers conference with the student

A teachers marginal and/or end of exam/paper/project


comments
A teachers summative written evaluative remarks on a
journal, portfolio, or other tangible product
A teachers written reaction to a students self-assessment
of performance in a course
A completed summative checklist of competencies, with
comments
Narrative evaluations of general performance on key
objectives
A teachers conference with the student

1. Self-assessment
Self-assessment of end-of-course at tainment of objectives is
recommended through the use of the following :
checklist, a guided journal entry, an essay and a teacherstudent conference.
2. Narrative evaluations
The arguments in favor of this form of evaluation are
apparent : individualization, evaluation of multiple
objectives of a course, face validity, and washback
potential.
3. Checklist evaluations
The advantages of such a form are increased practicality and
reliability while maintaining washback.
4. Conferences

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Grading is not necessarily based on a


universally accepted scale
Grading is sometimes subjective and contextdependent
Grading of a tests is often done on the curve
Grades reflect a teachers philosophy of grading
Grades reflect an institutional philosophy of
grading