Post 8: Given a second chance

This post, the next in my series of 9 x 9 x 25, is about negotiated grading. I am currently involved in a project that uses negotiated grading and feedback for assignments. Essentially, the student hands in the homework and gets back detailed feedback without a grade. They then have the option to improve the paper and hand it back in, or request a grade, a process that involves meeting (in person or virtually) to review the assignment, reflect on their effort, and negotiate for a grade. I think this process mirrors real life (like asking your boss to evaluate your work) and allows the students to utilize the feedback to improve.

There are many examples where a student gets another chance (which is another parameter built into come of the courses), so they are able to improve using an agile design and improvement cycle, instead of each assignment being a high stakes, all or nothing proposition. Perhaps one student has some issues with APA formatting, syntax and grammar. If they have detailed feedback and can access the right resources (in my case this is usually the library or the Learning Center), they are able to refine their work, resubmit it, and learn from their mistakes.

This semester, I am using negotiated grading in two of my courses:

In the first, students work on weekly group project and present them at the beginning of each weekly class. During the presentation, two of the other groups, their peers, fill out a peer assessment form providing the presenting group with feedback. Following the presentation there is a general discussion with participation from the class, on highlights, issues, things to think about. The discussion does not usually focus on specific presentations, rather on the overall issues being discussed and ideas about what worked and stood out and what did not.  To receive a grade, the group must then fill out a second form, request for grades, and bring the three pages to a meeting where the work in reviewed in detail, formulas are checked, and an in depth discussion, which would not otherwise be possible is held. At this meeting, and on paper, the group requests a grade and provides a rationale, and a compromise is (usually) made. Students tend to put a lot of work into these projects and that is reflected in the quality of their work and grades. On the rare occasions where the projects are less than what is expected, this is reflected in their grades using the same process. It is important to note that If an assignment is not handed in on time and presented, the group fails the assignment.

This approach allows for two levels of evaluation, the general overview in class focusing on the ideas and presentation (which is not itself graded), and a later meeting with a more in-depth discussion of the formulas and approach used.

In the second class with a negotiated grading element,  the negotiated grading process works slightly differently. In this course, students submit an assignment, receive detailed feedback, but do not receive a grade (which is ultimately based on a rubric). When students get feedback on an assignment, they have the option to resubmit, or negotiate for a grade. Students use the same grade request form as the first course, and arrange a meeting to review one, or several, assignments. Since this is a course that focuses on essay writing skills, many of the issues are around word choice, phrasing, use of APA formatting and citations. By allowing multiple submissions per assignments (if the students opt for this route), students are able to learn how to write a better essay, and often visit the Learning Center or library to get help with each submission. At any time, students are also able to stop re-submitting and choose to meet to review the assignments and negotiate a grade. In this review, a rubric is used, 75% of the mark is subject related, while 25% is technical (such as grammar and spelling). In this course students can come for a meeting after each assignment (or iteration), or do several at once if they so choose).

This approach allows for students to improve their assignments if they continue to submit revised and improved work, and takes an iterative approach to fundamental skills in essay writing and written communication. If a student submits an essay with multiple revisions, they are able to improve, and this shows on their next assignment. Given that we do not have an English course in the program, this allows students to learn critical writing and communication skills in a manner that allows for improvement.

I am sure we are all familiar with the traditional way this process plays out. The student submits a paper, the teacher writes more than the student does in comments, the student gets the paper back, flips to the last page and sees their grade, and promptly deposits the paper in the trash. The second change is how we all learn, and gives an opportunity for the students to improve their work. Perhaps they did not understand APA or writing mechanics, and now have a chance to sit down with the material and figure out the best way forward.

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One thought on “Post 8: Given a second chance

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  1. Negotiated grading is a fantastic practice – focusing on feedback and improvement, rather than strictly grades. I like what you’ve done with your course!

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