In all my years of studying to become an ESL teacher, not once did they teach me how I should calculate grades and what to do if a student challenges his/her grade.
The thing I hate about teaching are grades. Gosh, if I could just teach, and students could just learn and not have to worry about calculating grades or conferencing with students why they earned an F in my class--- I'd enjoy teaching a heck of a lot more!
I'm not going all hippie on you (don't worry). I'm not saying that we should do away with the standard grading system, which at the college I work for is:
90-100% = A
80-90% = B
70-80% = C
60-70% = D
< 60% = F
Grades motivate students. They inform advisors what kind of scores they earned in the past and/or what subjects they struggle with, and it's a way to earn scholarships, etc. That's all pretty straight forward. Let's not change that.
I'm not a fan of the math, but even that isn't too bad if I have a clear plan for how many points I want to award each assignment, which, until recently, I didn't.
I just made up assignments as I went, assessing my students on what I taught (which they did teach me to do in my Master's degree!) when I felt like I needed to know if they were processing what I was teaching. I'd usually try to keep the points simple, like 10 points, 50 points, 100 points, depending on how crucial I thought the assignment was. Then, at the end of the semester, I'd add up all these assignments, plug them into Canvas or Blackboard, and bam! there's my students' grades. It took a long time because I'd do a lot of "little" assignments, and my eyes would get crossed eyed from looking at the computer screen for so long. Thank goodness for Hubby who read my grades off for me (which I always recorded by hand).
About two years into teaching, I decided I needed a better way to calculate grades because students often wanted to know where they stood not only at the end of the semester, but in the middle or at any point, so I started plugging in all these assignments into Canvas/Blackboard earlier. Every Thursday or Friday, I'd spend a good hour or two plugging in stuff for my classes. In a way, this was better because I was spreading out the data entry, but I still felt like I wasn't very accurate in grading. I always felt like I could do better. I felt like I was doing it the "hard way," but I had never been taught any way to calculate grades, let alone a simpler or better way to do it.
The 1,000 Points System
I'm embarrassed to admit, but it was only last year that I decided that I'd decide at the beginning of a semester to have a set number of points to award my students. Hubby suggested 1,000. It's a good large number, but not too difficult to work with mathematically.
This allowed me to say stuff like, well--- writing projects are super important, so I'll have all of their essays (collectively) add up to 450 or 500 points. Participation is important, but shouldn't outweigh their writing because the majority of objectives for this class is writing, so I'll have that worth 100 points. I could confidently tell my students up front that they would be working towards 1,000 points. It made it easier for them to calculate their own grades, which was really great!
I still did quite a bit of data entry, but I soon learned to cluster assignments in this way, so students could see what each assignment belonged (i.e participation or writing project, etc.).
I still hate the math. I still get stressed entering in grades. I'm always worried that I'm entering in the wrong grade for a student, but I'm getting better.
It's dealing with those students that want to argue their grade. I really hate that. READ PART 2.