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New Faculty Experiences with Mastery Grading

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

New Engineering Educators Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1187.1 - 26.1187.11



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Paper Authors


Joseph Ranalli Pennsylvania State University, Hazleton Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Joseph Ranalli has taught since 2012 as an Assistant Professor at Penn State Hazleton in the Alternative Energy and Power Generation Engineering program. He previously earned a BS from Penn State and a PhD from Virginia Tech, both in Mechanical Engineering. Prior to his current appointment, he served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown, West Virginia. Dr. Ranalli's current research interests include development of tools and methods for solar energy resource assessment and the role of technology in engineering pedagogy.

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Jacob Preston Moore Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto Orcid 16x16

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Jacob Moore is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State Mont Alto.

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New Faculty Experiences with Mastery Grading Mastery grading is a pedagogical technique that may be employed for the purpose ofemphasizing the formative nature of an assessment. In mastery grading, students are allowedopportunities to repeat an assignment at which they fail to achieve a correct answer. In this way,students are encouraged to address the content of instructor feedback on assignments, rather thansimply looking at a score, and to use that feedback address deficiencies in their understanding. Inthis paper, we discuss experiences of new engineering educators in applying mastery grading tohomework assignments in an introductory thermodynamics course. We provide insight intodifficulties and challenges encountered during the experience, with the intention of guiding newfaculty members who may be interested in implementing the technique. In the mastery grading setup, students were assigned approximately five homeworkproblems from the book to be completed each week. Each problem was graded by the instructoron an all or nothing basis, with the instructor providing detailed feedback for incorrect answers.After the assignments were returned, students were given the opportunity to resubmit theassignments within the established timeframe of one week. The process of grading andresubmitting the assignments could continue until all problems were either mastered or until thestudent failed to resubmit the assignment on time. New scores would replace old scores and onlythe final score achieved counted as part of the students’ homework grades. Additional instructor and student time was found to be required to accommodate this re-grading methodology, but it was not a multiplicative effect; time savings were achieved ingreater ease of not having to determine point values, and the ability to quickly check thoseproblems that were correct. Students were also receptive to the method when it was presented asa technique that has been shown to improve student learning. Besides the learning benefits,students identified the perceived fairness of mastery grading, compared to traditional partialcredit grading, as an ancillary benefit to the method. Students also had the benefit ofopportunities to improve on unsatisfactory performance by demonstrating mastery on aresubmission, reducing the pressure on an instructor to consider curving grades. This wasobserved to ease maintaining consistency while scoring assignments across multiple gradingsessions. It could be expected to provide benefits to graders in large course sections, where gradenorming can be a challenge. The authors also make several recommendations to novice faculty membersimplementing the mastery grading technique, to ease the transition from traditional grading to themastery grading system. We also recommend best practices for applying mastery gradingtechniques to homework assignments, based on experience detailed in this study.

Ranalli, J., & Moore, J. P. (2015, June), New Faculty Experiences with Mastery Grading Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24524

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