Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Should we count effort in assigning final grades?

Maryellen Weimer reports on a study that finds, not surprisingly, more students than faculty think that effort should count toward a course grade. What is surprising is that the faculty surveyed in the study thought that effort should count for nearly one-fifth of a final course grade (versus students who thought, on average, that effort should count for about 40% of the final grade). Weimer reacts:
I'm rather mystified by faculty thinking that effort should account for 17% of the grade.I suppose if it's the course grade, and effort is equated with things like regular attendance, completion of homework, asking and answering the right questions that, by the end of the course, faculty might have a sense of who's trying hard and can be rewarded for doing so. But it still doesn't make much sense. How could you be in class, do the homework, regularly participate and not master the material? What about the students who aren't in class, don't do the homework but still perform well, are they docked for not showing effort?
Weimer's bottom line is that mastery should determine the final grade. The readers' comments, on the other hand, betray a number of alternative perspectives on the matter. One example:
Although I don't believe in bumping up points for effort, I do believe in distributing a lot of opportunities for points throughout a course: free participation points (for example through clicker questions or in-class assignments), extra credit, and repeatable, online quizzes. That way, if a student completes all of the homework, attends class regularly, and participates, then s/he'll acquire enough points to raise a D to a C.