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 struggled with in my teaching (probably the most) was figuring out grades. If I could just teach, and students could just learn and not have to worry about grades (and specifically not having to conference with students that earned an F in my class)--- I'd enjoy teaching more. It's the number one thing that I dislike about my job, and it probably has to do with the fact that no one ever taught me how to do it.
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.
When I started teaching, 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!) whenever I felt like I needed to know if they were learning things. I'd usually try to keep the points simple, like 10 , 50 , or 100 points, depending on how crucial I thought the assignment should be. 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 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 them in.
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 at the beginning of a semester to have a total 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 has 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, etc. 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 where each assignment belonged (i.e participation or writing project, etc.).
I still don't like the math, but it seems a lot more manageable and more accurate as well. Now that I had figured out a 1,000 point system, I just needed to learn how to deal with those students that wanted to argue their grade. That is, also, something I didn't learn before jumping into teaching... READ PART 2.
Tutoring ESL, college writing, reading, and English grammar since 2005!