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Who Benefits from Equitable Grading? A Case Study from a Core Electrical and Computer Engineering Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Studies of Classroom Assessment: Exam Wrappers, Equitable Grading, Test Anxiety, and Use of Reflection

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Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Lauren Singelmann North Dakota State University Orcid 16x16

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Lauren Singelmann is a PhD Student in Electrical and Computer Engineering and STEM Education at North Dakota State University. Her research interests are innovation-based-learning, learning analytics, and K-12 Outreach. She works for the NDSU College of Engineering as the K-12 Outreach Coordinator where she plans and organizes outreach activities and camps for students in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

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This Evidence-Based Practice paper explores equitable grading practices, how they can be implemented, and the associated costs and benefits. Various strategies to improve equity in engineering classes include allowing retakes, eliminating penalties for missing and late homework, and implementing alternative assessment options. However, concerns often arise about the negative consequences of these changes to assessment. For example, do these practices lead to grade inflation? Does not grading homework lead to students not completing the homework? How do students feel about these changes in grading? Do the practices actually benefit students from underrepresented groups?

In order to answer these questions, three equitable grading strategies (adapted from Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman were implemented in a sophomore level Electrical and Computer Engineering course: 1) eliminating the 0-100% grading scale, 2) not including behaviors or homework in the final grade, and 3) allowing for retakes on all exams. Because content, homework, and exams are consistent with those from past semesters, comparisons can be made between the grade a student gets using the equitable grading system and a traditional grading systems. This gradebook data, along with demographic data and student surveys, were used to answer the questions and concerns about implementing these grading strategies. Analysis found that students from underrepresented groups were over 7 times more likely to end up with a better grade when using equitable grading strategies (p<0.01). Students with better grades were also more likely to have taken advantage of a verbal retake opportunity.

ASEE has made a commitment to improving diversity in engineering, and these grading practices have been shown to help students from diverse backgrounds meet learning outcomes in other subjects/disciplines. By analyzing and sharing data from a core electrical engineering course that used these strategies, engineering faculty may feel more confident in making the switch to equitable grading practices.

Singelmann, L. (2021, July), Who Benefits from Equitable Grading? A Case Study from a Core Electrical and Computer Engineering Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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