Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Fostering Fairness with Equitable Grading

Fostering Fairness with Equitable Grading doesn't have to start with a huge shift. Here are 12 small steps to get you started with equitable grading
Fostering Fairness with Equitable Grading

Educational practices have long been governed by established traditions and norms, one of the most pervasive being the grading system. Across the globe, letter grades or numerical scores have become the accepted measure of a student’s understanding, competence, and even potential. However, as educators, we must question whether this model truly serves our students’ diverse needs and effectively assesses their learning. Change is difficult, especially when you seem locked into how a computer grading system determines as students learning. However, remember, the computer does not know your students. A math formula does not accurately represent a persons learning.

The Need for Change: Is Traditional Grading Enough?

Our traditional grading system tends to compartmentalize students’ abilities into simplistic labels, often failing to portray the full picture of a student’s progress. Does a ‘B’ really tell us the story of a student’s hard work, their improved understanding, or the conceptual connections they have made? It’s time to ponder this, to reconsider our stance, and perhaps give our age-old grading system a necessary makeover.

asian woman generated by AI holding papers and smiling.

Equitable Grading: Embracing Fairness and Inclusivity

Equitable grading isn’t about watering down academic expectations; it’s about promoting fairness. It’s about recognizing the myriad of strengths, abilities, and backgrounds our students bring into the classroom. Here’s how we can incorporate equitable grading practices:

  1. Mastery-Based Grading: Grading shouldn’t be about a one-time performance on a test or assignment. Instead, let’s focus on mastery, evaluating how well our students understand a subject over a span of time and providing multiple opportunities for them to showcase their knowledge.
  2. Constructive Feedback: Prioritize detailed feedback over letters or numbers. Descriptive feedback helps students understand where they excel and which areas require improvement.
  3. Self-Assessment: Empowering students with self-assessment nurtures self-awareness, helping them to gauge their own learning journey.
  4. Removing Bias: It’s essential to be mindful of potential biases that might influence our grading. Our aim should be to honor the uniqueness of each student in our assessments.
  5. Diversity Is Strength: Let’s celebrate the diversity in our classroom, adapting our teaching and grading methods to suit the different learners in our room. A one sized fits all assessment model is certainly not equitable.

A Journey, Not a Destination

The transition to equitable grading might appear challenging at first, but remember, every significant change is a process. Implementing equitable grading practices gradually, one step at a time, can make this transition smoother.

12 Tips for More Equitable Grading

As educators, we know that even the smallest adjustments to our teaching practices can lead to significant outcomes in our classrooms. And so it is with equitable grading. Start small!!

1. Mastery-Based Grading

Instead of grading students based on a one-time performance on a test, shift your focus to how well students understand a subject over a period. This is known as mastery-based grading and it better reflects a student’s knowledge growth. What this looks like is not considering any grade in the gradebook as final. If students have later learned the topic, be willing to update the score for full credit so that the score reflects, at the grading period, what the student actually knows. Not, what they knew in the past.

2. Provide Constructive Feedback

Reconsider the power of feedback. Instead of just giving a numerical grade, provide descriptive feedback that points out what students did well and where they can improve.

3. Implement Self-Assessment

Allow students to assess their own work. This helps students to take ownership of their learning and can boost their confidence.

5. Eliminate Zeroes

A zero can drastically impact a student’s grade. Consider adopting a grading scale that does not include zero, as it can provide a more accurate reflection of a student’s understanding.

6. Provide Revision Opportunities

Learning is a process and sometimes it takes a few tries to fully understand a concept. Allowing students to revise their work can foster a growth mindset.

7. Grade Anonymously

If possible, grade assignments without knowing whose work you’re grading. This can help eliminate any unconscious bias.

8. Normalize Test Corrections

Allow students to review and correct their mistakes on tests. This encourages them to learn from their mistakes and shows them that you value their learning over their initial test score.

9. Use Technology

Leverage digital tools to facilitate personalized learning and assessment. Tools such as learning management systems or digital assessment platforms can be of great help.

10. Diversify Assessment Types

Every student has unique strengths. By varying the types of assessments you use – written papers, oral presentations, multimedia projects, etc., you can give every student a chance to shine.

11. Implement Group Grades

Include group grades as a part of your grading system. This encourages students to work together, communicate, and can help develop crucial soft skills.

12. Communicate with Students

Finally, keep the lines of communication open. Students should feel comfortable approaching you about their grades. Be open to their concerns, ideas, and feedback. Include student self voice in their assessment. I ask students “does this grade accurately reflect what you know?” If not, I’m open to helping them to demonstrate it to me in other ways. It could just be verbally they tell me and I can assess that indeed their knowledge is higher.

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