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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Ultimate Scoring Guide (The 3W in Action)

In order to streamline grading I have decided to resort to honesty. We often seem appalled when we hear of a teacher that just assigns a grade because they know what the work deserves. Rubrics and scoring guides while helpful in letting student know what should be done are basically worthless when it comes to assessment. Everytime we get a new scoring guide I try to find some way to turn it into some sort of quantifiable number. I always fail. How do I know that I fail? Well when I derive the numerical date it never comes out to the grade that my years of experience tell me the paper should have. All work falls into three categories that correspond to either and A, C, or F. Or more simply, "Wow what a great idea," "Well duh," and "What the heck." I call this scoring guide the 3W since we all know that all good ideas can be distilled into an acronym.

The first W is the Wow factor. To get an A the paper must go beyond your expectations of the assignment or of the student. The wow moment comes when you say to yourself, "I never thought of that." There is an issue of standards however. If your standards for an assignment or student are too low then you are likely to say wow at rather mundane work. Conversely, If your standards are too high then you are obviously going to have some trouble being impressed.

In fact with high standards you are much more likely to say, "duh." A "Well Duh" paper is basically a regurgitation of ideas and content mention in lectures, discussions, and the text. This is the level most people work on so the corresponding letter grade is a C indicating the utter mediocrity of the work. I contend that average is the worst thing to be. So in order to avoid a C a student should aim for the Wow A.

When aiming for this A a student will sometimes fail spectacularly. So much so that you are liable to say, "What the heck." At this point the student should get an F. Now many of you are screaming that that is not reasonable, and I agree. That is why a student should have an opportunity turn their paper into a "Wow" paper.

They will not be likely to change from "What the heck" to "Wow" in a single draft. They will work their way up the 3W continuum. Along they way they may have to stop at a D or a B. These two grades or noticably missing from the scoring guide and that is because they respond to secondary grades. If A, C, and F are the primary grades on the grading wheel, then D and B are combination of these. They are the green and orange of the spectrum.

Ideally we wouldn't have to give follow the rainbow of grades, but since it is required I will continue to do so. The 3W scoring guide however introduces a degree of honesty into this Skittle colored world of academics. What would be easier for a student to understand than "Wow," "Well duh," and "What the heck"?

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