Sunday, May 22, 2011

Toxic Grading Practices

I don't know where I came across the term "Toxic Grading Practices."  If someone else has heard this, and they remember where, feel free to comment.  I don't want to steal any ideas; instead hopefully build upon them.

We all know there are some grading practices that hurt student learning.  I have plenty of my own ideas as to what those may be, and plan on taking several of my next posts looking at those practices, as well as suggesting better ways to accomplish the same goal.  Instead of me simply spilling my ideas out right now, I would like some suggestions from the broader community.  If you know of any grading practices that inhibit student learning, please do one of the following:

  1. Comment and tell me about it below.
  2. Go go this survey.  There is a Google form waiting for you that will allow you to remain anonymous.
Upcoming blog posts will allow us to discuss each of these in more detail.


  1. "Toxic Grading Practices" is the title of a Doug Reeves talk about grading. You can view it on YouTube here:

    He makes some very good points in there, especially about giving students zeros. I have never seen a student magically get his/her act together after I gave them a zero. Also, I hate using the average at all, because it doesn't truly represent what the student knows about each standard. I was at a Rick Wormeli conference once, and something he said about grades has always stuck with me--that grades must be "truth." Averaging scores rarely communicates the truth about what a student knows. In fact, I would go so far as to advocate abolishing cumulative scores all together, and just give scores for mastery of each standard. But I don't think students or parents are quite ready for that.

  2. I agree with you to a certain extent. Often averages equal how much work a student has done rather than when they have mastered a skill. Low students can do everything and pass without learning much and advanced student can make A's with no deep thought. However, students who don't work rarely master anything so in that sense a zero is truth.

    As far as averaging goes, though, I think it depends on what you are averaging. If you are only averaging grades that tie into specific skills, than the average would show how close to complete mastery a student came. The other side to that would be allowing students to retake/redo/repeat what was necessary to improve their skills to boost that particular section. (The goal shouldn't be the grade, but that's what the result would be.)

  3. Mrs. E: Thanks for identifying Reeves for me. How could I forget the bowtie!

    OK, so far we have use of zeros and averaging as topics. Others?

  4. Have you checked the TEACHING|chemistry blog series called "Unhelpful Grading Practices" ? Lots more examples there!