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Promoting Equity: A Process of Adopting Outcomes-Based Grading in Your Course.

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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 7: Technical Session 4: Promoting Equity: A Process of Adopting Outcomes-Based Grading in Your Course.

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Katherine Ramos University of Colorado Boulder

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Dr. Katherine Ramos is a Teaching Assistant Professor for the Integrated Design Engineering program at CU Boulder. Dr. Ramos has a B.S. in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

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Within higher education, particularly at the undergraduate level, the conventional method of grading generally involves students accumulating points to determine their final letter grades. This traditional grading approach incentivizes students to prioritize point accumulation and grades, emphasizes compliance with requirements, and prioritizes high scores over deep comprehension and learning. There are multiple reasons why this approach can lead to inequities in student assessment, including grading bias and subjectivity, limited assessment methods, and a one-size-fits-all mentality that assumes uniform learning progress for all students. This approach fails to account for diverse learning needs and individual progress of students, potentially disadvantaging students who require additional time or support to fully grasp concepts. Fortunately, alternative grading methods exist that prioritize equity and benefit students irrespective of their backgrounds or circumstances. In my Statics course, we have embraced an alternative grading approach known as Outcomes-Based grading, which is a form of Mastery-Based grading. This method involves breaking down the course's learning outcomes into smaller targets and providing students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery. My Statics course includes students ranging from sophomores to seniors, spanning their second to fifth year of study. The students currently enrolled in the summer session of 2023 come from three distinct majors, namely Integrated Design Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil Engineering. This course was taught with conventional grading methods the previous summer. Although transitioning an entire course from traditional grading to an alternative system may seem challenging and overwhelming, it is possible to begin implementing this practice gradually in specific components of the course. The primary goal of this presentation is to provide an overview of the steps involved in implementing an alternative grading system for a specific portion of the course. It will include sharing valuable insights gained during the process and summarizing the feedback received from students. Additionally, practical examples will be provided on how to utilize a learning management system to implement this grading approach effectively. With Outcomes-Based grading, students can shift their focus from merely accumulating points to actively learning and mastering the course outcomes. This shift allows students to learn and master the desired outcomes at their own pace, fostering a student-centered learning experience where equity remains a priority. This presentation is designed to be approachable and adaptable, acknowledging that there is no universal solution. Its purpose is to offer a practical framework for transitioning to alternative assessment methods that promote equity in the classroom.

Ramos, K. (2024, February), Promoting Equity: A Process of Adopting Outcomes-Based Grading in Your Course. Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45467

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