Grading Practices that Inhibit Learning (Research Summary by Ken O’Connor)

In his book “How to Grade for Learning“, Ken O’Connor digs into the controversial topic of grading with tremendous insight and acumen.  He summarizes the research around the best practices in grading as articulated in the research in practical and relevant way.  This is the first of a few posts based on this incredible book.

12 Grading Practices that Inhibit Learning:

  1. Inconsistent grading scales
  2. worshipping averages
  3. Using zeroes indiscriminately
  4. Following the pattern of assign, test, grade, and teach
  5. Failing to match testing to teaching
  6. Ambushing students
  7. Suggesting that success is unlikely
  8. Practicing “gotcha” teaching
  9. Grading first efforts
  10. Penalizing students for taking risks
  11. Failing to recognize measurement error
  12. Establishing inconsistent grading criteria

This list comes from page 35 in “How to Grade For Learning” and is accompanied by detailed descriptions of why each of these factors really stifles learning rather then promoting it. The quality of the feedback students receive through the grades they are assigned has an incredibly significant impact on student learning.

If you are like me, reflecting on the summary of the “inhibitors” listed above might be a little bit daunting.  I know that my own practices in grading at times failed to avoid a few of these “inhibitors”. As we continually seek to improve the quality of our professional practice it is important that we use the research to reflect on how we can tighten up our practices to ensure that what we do aligns with best practices.

Stay tuned for more posts, summarizing this book.

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