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Grading: The (Mis)use of Mathematics in Measuring Student Learning and its Disproportionate Impact on Equity and Inclusion

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2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD)


Arlington, Virginia

Publication Date

February 25, 2024

Start Date

February 25, 2024

End Date

February 27, 2024

Conference Session

Track 8: Technical Session 4: Grading: The (Mis)use of Mathematics in Measuring Student Learning and its Disproportionate Impact on Equity and Inclusion

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Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Sharona Krinsky California State University, Los Angeles

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Sharona Krinsky is an instructor and course coordinator in the Mathematics department at California State University, Los Angeles and the co-PI of the NSF funded project "Commitment to Learning Instilled by a Mastery-Based Undergraduate Program (CLIMB-UP). She works with faculty on redesigning courses to utilize the principles of mastery-based grading in order to enhance student success and enable increased equity, inclusion, and access to careers in STEM fields for students from historically underrepresented groups. Sharona is a founding organizer of "The Grading Conference", an annual two-day online conference focused on reforming grading as we know it across STEM fields throughout higher education, now entering its fifth year. She coordinates a large general education Quantitative Reasoning with Statistics course for over 1,400 students per year as well as teaches a wide range of mathematics courses including Calculus and Linear Algebra.

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Robert Christopher Bosley California State University, Los Angeles


Dina Verdin Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus Orcid 16x16

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Dina Verdín, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. She graduated from San José State University with a BS in Industrial Systems Engineering and from Purdue University with an MS in Industrial Engineering and PhD in Engineering Education. Dina is a 2016 recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and an Honorable Mention for the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program. Her research interest focuses on changing the deficit base perspective of first-generation college students by providing asset-based approaches to understanding this population. Dina is interested in understanding how first-generation college students author their identities as engineers and negotiate their multiple identities in the current culture of engineering. Dina has won several awards including the 2022-2023 Outstanding Research Publication Award by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division I, 2018 ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Best Diversity Paper Award, 2019 College of Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award and the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Distinguished Scholar Award. Dina's dissertation proposal was selected as part of the top 3 in the 2018 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division D In-Progress Research Gala. Dina was a 2016 recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and an Honorable Mention for the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program.

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Eva Schiorring STEMEVAL

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Eva Schiorring has almost two decades of experience in research and evaluation and special knowledge about STEM education in community colleges and four-year institutions. She presently serves as the external evaluator for four NSF-funded projects. The

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Emily L. Allen California State University, Los Angeles

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Emily L. Allen, Ph.D., is Dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at California State University, Los Angeles. She believes in a collaborative, student-centered approach to research, education, academic administration and lea

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What do most engineering and computing classrooms have in common? Almost all classes, both in the K-12 educational system as well as the higher ed world, use some form of a points-and-percentages based grading system to “measure” student learning and give a final “grade” in the form of either a letter grade or a pass/fail mark. In this presentation, we will explore the destructive nature of this traditional grading method including: • The misuse of the mathematics of points, percentages, and averages • The historical development of this system, built in part to reflect traditional social standing • The ways in which traditional grading actively works against innovative and inclusive pedagogical change • The inequitable nature of the artificial scarcity built-in to traditional grading. • The eugenics behind utilizing a “normal curve” for grading

Participants in this presentation will be invited to take a critical lens to their current grading practices, to understand some of the unspoken assumptions that are embedded in it, and to consider some alternative options. From grading systems that take a collaborative approach to working with students to systems that allow for multiple approaches to be utilized by students to demonstrate learning, revisiting our grading practices has been shown to be a multiplicative factor in enhancing the effectiveness of a wide variety of inclusive pedagogies, including active learning, problem-based curricula, and flipped classrooms. Additionally, these alternative grading structures allow for more flexibility to equitably accommodate a wide variety of student situations while minimizing additional workload on the instructor. With examples drawn from Engineering and Mathematics classrooms in a Hispanic-Serving Institution, we will share first-hand experiences of the improvement in student learning that comes from discarding traditional grading in favor of alternative grading systems that center student learning. We will consider how identity permeates the design of grading systems and the different impacts that grading choices have on both faculty and students based on their identities. We will share our experiences with course redesign at an HSI, including the intersection of the redesign process with both instructor and student identity and needs. Through the centering of student learning, faculty can regain the opportunity for true partnerships with students, engaging more in content based discussions and learning with students as opposed to “grade-grubbing”, antagonistic conversations about points.

Krinsky, S., & Bosley, R. C., & Verdin, D., & Schiorring, E., & Allen, E. L. (2024, February), Grading: The (Mis)use of Mathematics in Measuring Student Learning and its Disproportionate Impact on Equity and Inclusion Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45456

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