FLEXIBLE GRADING TO ENHANCE STUDENT LEARNING IN INTRODUCTORY GEOSICENCE CLASSES
As teaching strategies and goals evolve, it has become apparent that new techniques must be found for evaluating student performance. If teaching is going to be flexible and open ended, so should grading. To this end, we have implemented a flexible grading system in our Introduction to Environmental Issues Class. Students are expected to do a core group of assignments, but are given considerable flexibility in select additional things they wish to do. By this scheme, students who do a minimal amount of work, but do it well, receive high grades. Students who do more work, but perform at a lower level, may receive equally high grades. Keeping track of students and being consistent in making evaluations is complicated in a large class and is accomplished using a web hosted database.
Surveys of students after two years reveal the following about our system of flexible grading: (1) students believe flexible grading is fairer than traditional grading; (2) students say they work much harder than in traditional courses; (3) there is a high degree of student satisfaction regarding final grades. These student opinions are supported by instructors observations. Instructors also report that student thinking and learning seem improved, but that flexible grading takes more time than traditional grading.