During a global pandemic, grades should be the last thing students have to worry about. As the deadlines for pass/fail and Q-drop period approach, some students — particularly those in STEM fields — must have up-to-date information about their grades because they need to pass their current classes in order to advance to the next course requirement.
In order to make sure this information is readily available to students in a comprehensible way, professors must utilize consistent, transparent grading schemes. Failure to do so only makes learning more difficult.
A nursing sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous, said her professor has repeatedly changed the class’s grading system in the syllabus without warning. Sometimes, these changes occurred after students had already turned in a major assignment.
“It feels like a constant game of catch-up,” the student said. “I feel like I don’t have enough time to really learn the material because I’m so stressed out about doing well on the quizzes.”
It isn’t impossible to create an honest grading system. Some professors have adjusted to the online format of the semester by adopting new systems of grading that remain entirely transparent to the student.
Amy Tuttle-Charron from the rhetoric and writing department modeled her class’s grading system off a gamified classroom setting. As the students complete assignments, they gain XP, or experience points, and level up through the semester. By the end of the semester, the total number of points they’ve earned add up to their final grade.
“The reason I do this is to put the responsibility back on the student,” Tuttle-Charron said. “So it’s not so much about what you started out with in my class, it’s about how much distance have you gained between the time you come in and the time you’re leaving.”
The gamified system means that the student is always aware of how they are doing in the class.
Other professors have adopted different measures for transparent grading. James Patterson from the classics department has adopted a grading system based on raw percentages. Throughout the semester, the total number of points on all the assignments add to 100. For example, a test with 20 points counts for 20% of the final grade.
Patterson decided on this grading system in response to his own confusion as a student in calculating various weighted grades.
“It seems like a raw points approach makes it much clearer about where you are and where you can be,” Patterson said. “Transparency is very important for everyone to know what (they’re) doing.”
Of course, these systems may not work for all classes, but they are examples of ways professors can ensure that their students are kept updated about their standing in the class.
Many professors perceive grades as a superficial worry, but students need that information to properly plan for the future. To give their students the best chance to succeed during these stressful semesters, professors should maintain straightforward grading systems that don’t leave students in the dark about their performance.
Barker is a government sophomore from Arlington, TX.