July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education
Even as we integrate inclusive teaching strategies and course design, the philosophy and implementation of grading continues to be a large source of inequity in higher education. Grades signal to students whether they belong within a course or degree major and dictate access to academic and career opportunities. Consequently, even in a classroom where the instructor shares decision-making power with students, grading ultimately becomes a place where instructors exercise complete power and students exhibit little agency. While efforts have focused on closing the “achievement gap” through teaching practice, the negative impact of grading on students, especially those with marginalized identities, suggests that we must interrogate how the way that we assess students could also contribute to this gap. Innovative approaches to grading have been explored in other settings, yet science and engineering disciplines often rigidly assess student performance through what they consider to be objectively designed and evaluated tasks. This practice and its underlying assumptions have historically done little to help, if not exacerbated existing inequities for students from marginalized identity groups. In this paper, we review the inequities around current practices in grading that motivate the need to change, as well as introduce several frameworks of alternative grading (e.g. contract grading, mastery grading, ungrading). In so doing, we will consider different perspectives on the purpose of grading and what we aim to evaluate in our students through their work. We will examine the importance of merit from the instructor’s view and how different interpretations of this ideal affect our students. This paper will also discuss barriers real or perceived to changing how we grade, and propose some strategies for instructors who wish to limit the effects of bias, increase a sense of agency, and ultimately empower students.
Ko, M. E. (2021, July), Revolutionizing Grading: Implications on Power, Agency, and Equity Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37687
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