Assigning grades can be an angst-filled time for instructors.

While some departments require that all student work be graded, others encourage a variety of approaches to learning assessment, including observations and comments by instructors throughout the semester with grades only assigned at the end of the term. Instructors are not required to employ pluses or minuses on grades. Instructors must, however, announce at the first class and include in the syllabus which grading option will be used.

The clearer you are about how you will assign grades prior to the actual grading process, and the better records you keep, the more likely you can avoid grade disputes later.

Grades, of course, can be a source of friction between students and instructors. Students want to know that instructors have been consistent and fair in their grading. The following points will help you achieve consistency and fairness and demonstrate your commitment to those qualities should a student question his or her grade:

  • Keep accurate and duplicate copies of your grading records.

  • Maintain records that can easily be interpreted by your DEO.

  • Inform students fairly often throughout the semester about their progress in the course. This does not need to be a grade, but it should be evaluative in some way

  • Create a rubric (or a scoring guide that assigns specific points to each answer) when grading papers or exams.

  • For written assignments, require students to use the rubric to assess themselves and to turn in their “scores” along with the assignment.

  • After you’ve developed a rubric or scoring guide, “test” it by applying it to five or ten exams or papers. If your grading guidelines don’t seem reasonable, alter them.

  • After you have graded all the exams or papers, reexamine the first few that you graded. Are the standards you applied at the beginning of the grading process the same as the standards you used at the end?

  • When evaluating written work, try to find at least one thing to praise and encourage further work. And even students who produce “A” writing need to be given new, higher goals to shoot for.

  • Make clear that you have considered what a student is trying to say in written work as well as how they have managed to communicate it.