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Grading Pitfalls to Avoid

Whether we like it or not, students pay attention to grades. According to Academy policy, grades should focus only on work that students have completed as part of your class: major or minor assignments or projects or in-class or online activities, such as quizzes, presentations, and participation/discussion.

If your grading appears inconsistent, mysterious, arbitrary, or unfair, you'll find yourself dealing with the annoyance of student complaints instead of the joy of seeing students acquire new skills.

In short, avoid these common pitfalls and focus on the work only.

Pitfall #1: Grading Attendance 
Students should never receive a grade for simply showing up, physically or electronically. If you value attendance, which you should, create "grade-able" reasons for students to attend class, such as in-class assignments, quizzes, or presentations. When students miss class, they miss the day's assignment and by default, receive a zero for that day.

Pitfall #2: Default Grading
Giving all students the same, one-size-fits-all grade denies them individual, authentic feedback as members of your class. Students expect and deserve grades that reflect their individual accomplishments.

Pitfall #3: Grading on a Curve
Grading on a 'normal' curve insures that some students will fail no matter how good their work may be. In the words of Benjamin Bloom, "The normal curve is a distribution most appropriate to chance and random activity. Education is a purposeful activity and we seek to have students learn what we would teach. Therefore, if we are effective, the distribution of grades will be anything but a normal curve. In fact, a normal curve is evidence of our failure to teach." Source: Bloom. B. (May, 1968),"UCLA CSEIP Evaluation" Comment, 1(2).

Pitfall #4: Grading from Gut 
When you grade from the gut, you may focus on students' personalities, rewarding students you enjoy and punishing those who annoy you. With good reason, students find this practice patently unfair.

Pitfall #5: Mercy Grading
Mercy grading is artificially raising a student's grade because you feel sorry for him or her. Even if a student works hard, is earnest and comes to class regularly, her grade should reflect her work only. Mercy grading misleads students about their real skills and abilities and their ability to succeed in subsequent classes. Even students with documented disabilities and accommodation letters should not receive mercy grades. All students need clear, authentic feedback about their progress in your class.

Pitfall #6: Hit and Run Grading
Grading Students don't know what hit them if you give them a letter grade without any explanation of why or how to improve. Even students who receive A's need to know why their work excels and what they might to do push it even further.