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Evaluating Student Writing: Assessment, Feedback, and Grades
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Prepared by Emily Goodeve and Nicholas Grossenbach

David A. Frisbie and K.K. Waltman, "Developing a Personal Grading Plan." Also available online at http://depts.washington.edu/grading/plan/frisbie.html

Frisbie encourages a lot of self-reflection and evaluation on the teacher's part. I think this is useful because it's easy to forget your own personal grading philosophy throughout the grading period. As Frisbie suggests, it would be useful to have a reference or "a compatible personal grading plan" (1) in order to closely follow your own personal grading philosophy. I also found his assessment of the grading theories useful. I agree that "grades are not essential to the instructional process" (1) but that they do help students gauge their performance and progress and can motivate them to work harder. The formatting of Frisbie's article is also useful, especially in the question and answer sections. Frisbie brings up some very relevant concerns (e.g. what to do if there are too many high grades or low grades in the class and if it is necessary to achieve a balance (see p. 3). While his grading charts could be useful, I found that they are quite limiting and perhaps require more detail in order to be used effectively. What I found most useful was his critical analysis of grading methods. He would state the benefits of certain methods, but also noted their drawbacks. What is more, he includes various grading methods allowing the reader to choose what might work best for them. (Emily Goodeve)

David L. Martinson, "A Perhaps 'Politically Incorrect' Solution to the Very Real Problem of Grade Inflation," College Teaching, Spring 2004 v52 i2 p47 (5).

I actually didn't find this article to be useful in any sort of practical way, but I did like that it was quite thought provoking (and entertaining at times), despite the fact that I disagreed with a lot of the author's viewpoints. Martinson takes issue with the "anonymous, multiple-choice student evaluations of instruction" (47) distributed towards the end of the course. Like Martinson, I think it's important to allow students to voice their opinions about the instructor and the course, but I too find these evaluations to be quite impersonal, inaccurate, and sometimes irrelevant. Hence Martinson's comment "What I question is the value of providing the current institutionalized impersonal mechanism by which these evaluations are gathered and processed" (49). Martinson goes on to argue that these evaluations are quite dysfunctional and a lot of this has to do with the fact that the ratings are "terribly inflated." (50). Consequently, Martinson weaves in the problem of grade inflation for students within this article. He argues that students today "expect an A, regardless of the amount of intellectual energy that they are will to expend, because they need that grade to get a good job" (50). I agree to an extent, but I think it's also a borderline egregious generalization. He argues that instead of "protesting against social injustice" that students are more concerned with grades today. I find this statement problematic for a many reasons, but it nevertheless makes one's mind stir. (Emily Goodeve)

David Hampton, "Making complaining appealing," College Teaching, Spring 2002 v 50, i2 p 62 (1).

Hampton does a nice job of underscoring the fact that when grades are being contested in the middle of the course, "emotion often supplants reason." I think this occurs for both the student and the teacher; as teachers we can feel bad about perhaps being too harsh or we can often take it personally when our students contest our grades. I like Hampton's idea of making the students write out a formal appeal in a set amount of time in order for a grade reevaluation to be considered. Hampton's appeal process is by no means complicated; indeed it welcomes the student to contest their grade, but it also points out that it's not as simple as handing back your paper to be re-graded. Rather it's a formal process that needs to be followed in order for a grade dispute to be evaluated. And according to Hampton's method the students have to think critically about why they deserve a better grade. Hence, as Hampton notes "formal appealing requires self control and care to persuade through fact and reason." (Emily Goodeve)

Wilbert McKeachie, McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002), 84-90.

McKeachie begins with the problem that all teachers encounter: how to convey to our students that what they learn is more important than what grade they receive (86). I do harbor a similar sentiment as a teacher, but as a student I often think that grade I received is a reflection of the amount I learned. Moreover, while I believe that learning should be underscored and getting the perfect grade shouldn't be a strong point of emphasis, I still don't necessarily apply this to myself as a student; and as McKeachie notes, most students feel similarly and it's not a simple task to convince them that what they learn is more important than their grade. Another issue McKeachie brings up is that many students are upset if they are asked to go "beyond the usual practice of asking simply for memory of information form the textbook or lectures." (86). This can lead to resentment and a teacher must be prepared for such situations. One of McKeachie's many suggestions includes emphasizing "that the tests will measure the student's abilities to use their knowledge" (87). And McKeachie seems to suggest that we should not be 'hand-holders'; rather we should allow room for and encourage personal responsibility. McKeachie then outlines how to administer different types of tests. For instance, he highly values essay tests since they allow students to think critically and creatively about the question instead of just reciting facts. (Emily Goodeve)

Elizabeth Boretz, "Grade Inflation and the Myth of Student Consumerism," College Teaching, Spring 2004, v52 i2, p. 42 (5).

According to the author of this article, grades are at an all time high. She argues, however, that despite the widely-held belief that students have become consumers who demand higher grades from instructors in exchange for favorable teaching evaluations, we can point to a rise in faculty development programs and increased varieties of student support services to account for at least part of this trend in grade increase since the 1970s. She provides an overview of the literature addressing this issue, dismissing arguments that grade-inflation is a result of a "dumbing down [of] the curriculum to focus on self-esteem goals" or that it is "tied to a social and moral decline" as oversimplifications of the problem. Boretz recommends a central focus on "teaching and learning effectiveness." (Nicholas Grossenbacher)

Barbara Gross Davis, "Evaluating Students' Written Work," "Grading Practices," "Calculating and Assigning Grades," and "Preventing Academic Dishonesty," in Tools for Teaching, 222-29, 282-311.

This series of articles provides a very useful guide with practical suggestions for evaluating written work, grading, and finding and dealing with plagiarism. It is organized in a bullet-point format with broader section headings that make specific advice easy to find. Davis cites six functions of grading, and working on the assumptions laid out there, lays out a guide and approach based on earlier research on the most effective grading practices and the ways and manners in which grading can and should benefit the student. She does not, however, simply provide one single method which she favors, but suggests alternate approaches as well. The final section addresses academic dishonesty. She suggests preventative measures as the most effective—by educating students of the difference between paraphrasing, citing, and plagiarizing. (Nicholas Grossenbacher)

Christopher Jedry, "Grading and Evaluation," in The Art and Craft of Teaching, 103-115.

This article focuses on grading exams, with a brief section on plagiarism at the end. Jedry examines the purpose and significance of grades, pointing out that while grades are clearly important for students as a "spring-board" into graduate programs and jobs, "they also assist students in the complex process of intellectual self-evaluation that takes place in college." We must keep this in mind when approaching the problems of assigning precise and objective grades for something often more difficult to quantify, such as discussion participation. As far as exams are concerned, Jedry shows a preference for IDs, short answer, and multiple choice questions, saying that they "imply deeper knowledge of the subject but do not actually test it." He stresses the importance of objectivity in grading, because students rely on their instructors to evaluate their work on paper, and not them. Therefore instructors must be sure to not let subjective impressions of their student from the classroom or from earlier work affect how they evaluate current work. (Nicholas Grossenbacher)

James Anderson, "Tailoring Assessment to Student Learning Styles. A Model for Diverse Populations," AAHE Bulletin.com (March 2001).

In this article, Anderson highlights the problem teaching to diverse learners, and stresses the need for instructors to understand different learning styles, relate to their needs, and design appropriate assessment for them. He argues that understanding different learning styles, which he defines as "the preferred manners in which a student assimilates, organizes and uses information to make sense of the world," is a recent development which has not yet received enough attention by college educators. He provides a brief overview of different preferences for how students perceive, organize, and process different kinds of information, and highlights the cultural and socio-economic dimensions of these differences. He suggests that we move from a generic model of learning style to a more comprehensive model that incorporates the diverse needs of diverse students, suggesting solutions like "cooperative clusters" of like-minded students. Ultimately, we want all students to succeed, not just those primed for success. (Nicholas Grossenbacher)

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