Whether we use rubrics, detailed comments, points, or percentages, grading can sometimes seem like a mystery to students. It’s tough to know what they’re thinking, especially when they try to argue for a grade change.
As teachers, our expectations are clear to us, but helping students understand how we reach our conclusions is a beneficial step in their learning process. To help students understand our thought processes as we evaluate their work, you can have them:
Reflect on a successful or unsuccessful assignment. There are several variations of this:
- Based on your introduction to the assignment, have students list the qualities of a strong or weak version of the assignment
- Have students bring in a graded assignment (from your class or another) and have them analyze and reflect on how they acquired the grade they received
- Provide previous student examples of more and less successful versions of the assignment and have students analyze them in the context of the guidelines or rubric you provide
Create their own rubric. Give your students the opportunity to use their understanding of an assignment to build a rubric with you. Start a class discussion on the major categories of the rubric, then decide how to distribute the points, and describe the characteristics of a strong, average, or weak version of each section.
Grade their own work. Ask students to submit a grade or completed rubric with their assignment as well as a rationale for why they graded themselves that way. You don’t have to accept the grade they give themselves, but it helps you to better understand how students seem themselves reaching the goals you set.
Respond to your comments. If you give detailed written comments on either a draft or final version of an assignment, ask students to write a response. Encourage them to think critically about your comments by asking questions, offering suggestions, and outlining a plan for revision.
Each of these activities are intended to encourage students to think about grading and feedback as more than just a number or the whim of a teacher. They also encourage students to think more critically about their own work.