Easy 4-step grading system for your students assignments and projects.

So, how do you arrive at a grade for a project or assignment that isn’t a cut and dry quantitative calculation? If you follow these 4 steps, it will speed up your grading process and give you overall consistency in how you arrive at a final grade.

Step One: ‘Set Standards’

Determine if you are going to base the marks on your level of experience or on your students level of experience. Remember, they don’t have your experience, know-how, and wisdom yet; that’s why they’re in your class.

Step Two: ‘Define’

Determine the ‘meaning’ of each letter grade (What you should be ‘thinking’ is in brackets):

A’s = Outstanding (“Great!”)

B’s = Consistently thorough (“Very good.”)

C’s = Satisfactory (“Good/Pretty good.”)

D’s = Minimal effort (“This is a desperate attempt!”)

F= below minimal expectations (“Really…you’ve got to be kidding?”)

Step Three: ‘Skim and Scan’

Scan all the assignments or projects, and based on your professional judgment, initially place them in 5 separate piles based on the letter grade categories above. I actually will print out individual 8.5” by 11” sheets of paper with each letter to create the piles where they will go.

Note: After the first assignments or projects of a semester are handed in, you’ll get an indication who your academically strong and academically weak students are in the class. This will give you a quick starting point for all future hand-ins on who will most likely set the bar for an assignment or project that will be in the ‘A’ pile versus the ‘D’ and ‘F’ pile. In general, but not always, my experience has been that each student will follow a consistent level of academic achievement throughout a semester. Sorry, but it is what it is.

Once those two piles (the ‘A’ and the ‘D/F’) are started, you will now have a benchmark at either end of the spectrum and can start filling in the rest of the middle piles (C’s and B’s). As you start marking and delve deeper into each assignment within each pile, you may find your initial judgment was ‘off ‘ and you may move an assignment into a higher or lower grade category, which is fine and to be expected.

Step Four: ‘Grade’

Reduce a mark for each minor error or oversight within the range you have determined where the assignment belongs (‘A’ ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, or ‘F’ pile).

E.g. A student receives a mark in the ‘A’ range: You have determined that the assignment is still consistently ‘outstanding’ throughout and deserves to be in the ‘A’ range, but can still be improved upon. Your reductions can look like this:

Overall ‘A’ range = 80% to 100%

100%= 0 errors or oversights

99%=  1 error or oversight (e.g. Overall outstanding but with 1 error or oversight)

98%=  2 errors or oversights

97% = 3 errors or oversights

And so on (It is unlikely you will have more than 10 errors or oversights within each range. If so, you may want to reconsider the ‘grade category’?).

Overall ‘B’ range = 70% to 79%

79% = 1 error or oversight (e.g. Overall consistently thorough but with 1 minor error or oversight)

78% = 2 errors or oversights

77%=  3 errors or oversights

And so on.

Do the same for the ‘C’ and ‘D’ ranges.

That’s it. I’ve been following this process for 20+ years and have found it to be an easy and effective system to use for determining final grades. It will also give you a ‘plan of attack’ when you are sitting there procrastinating and staring at a mountain of assignments that need to be graded sooner than later!

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