Grading 21st Century-Style

created using Create Your Own Infographic template
published by Nate Binzen


Grading, 21st Century-Style

What should be the purpose of a grading system?

Student-centered purposes: • To provide information students can use for self-evaluation • To provide incentives for students to learn “Community”-centered purposes: • To communicate the achievement status of students to parents and others • To select, identify, or group students for specific educational paths or programs

Why "student-centered"?

Students are often out of touch with what their grades really symbolize They may focus more attention on conforming to the dictates of an opaque system than learning per se… For the student’s benefit in the present tense, we’re looking for a grading system that: • ensures that a student is armed with the tools necessary to succeed in future assignments • reflects how well the student comprehends the content of the course prioritizes the final result of the student’s participation

Comparing and contrasting two different grading systems

Standards-based Grading

Points-based Grading

Students are evaluated based on their proficiency in meeting a clearly- articulated set of course objectives Focuses on larger outcomes; concerns itself with the cohesive body of knowledge that the student gains as a result of the course; prioritizing the final result of the student’s participation Associated with formative grading; assesses in the present tense Particularly relevant to the liberal arts Entails instructors interacting more often and more closely with students and their work—to engage students in establishing goals, and then help them apply their work to those goals A new paradigm, less comfortable and more demanding of teachers Provides teachers with the opportunity to meet students wherever they are in the process of achieving goals

Traditional 100-point scale; points are allocated to individual assignments, and students earn them as they go Infers a student’s progress based solely on how many points the student has accumulated from the completion of individual assignments Associated with retrospective summative grading; takes previously recorded grades and calculates a final grade from the resulting accumulation of points More relevant to STEM-type courses Focused on the numbers, less concerned about communicating what it means An old paradigm, more comfortable and less demanding of teachers May have an adverse effect on students’ motivation to improve their understanding of subject matter

Standards-based grading as applied to 7th grade social studies

• Start from course objectives and standards • Devise grading to drive toward these outcomes • Discuss with students what the purpose of their participation in the course is, why it serves them • Use portfolio-based assessment

Are you meeting the course objective?

Now I can see how to do it better!

• Focus on formative assessment and meaningful, usable feedback to students • Enable student self-assessment • No zero grades; give incompletes with requirement to complete the work • Consider using whole number scales like A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, keyed to a rubric written in student-friendly language.

Formative assessment is in the form of portfolio item check-in, which is a weekly consultation with the student on the current piece of their portfolio under development; and the graded pieces in the portfolio itself, insofar as they are building on each other over time, and feedback can help form that progression. This scheme may be heavier on summative assessment than it could be, motivated by a desire to include some of the traditional assessments – tests, term papers…. I would look for ways to make the weekly quiz or short essay both formative and summative – they would be most useful if they can become an opportunity for learning.


This infographic by Nate Binzen, February 2016.


"0 Alternatives" by Thomas R. Guskey, in PL Magazine, Oct 2004, p. 49-53. "The Benefits of Standards-Based Grading: A Critical Evaluation of Modern Grading Practices" by D. L. Lamarino in Current Issues in Education, 17(2), 1-12. "Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading" by Robert J. Marzano, from