Paper No. 32-2
Presentation Time: 1:50 PM
DO OUR GRADING PRACTICES SEND THE RIGHT MESSAGE?
Grading practices can send a powerful message to students about what is expected. Research in physics education has identified a misalignment between the goals of faculty instructors and their actual scoring of student solutions: instructors encourage students to show their work when solving numerical problems, yet sometimes grade student work in a way that can discourage them from showing their work. This previous research identified three values that guide faculty when making grading decisions: (1) a desire to see students’ reasoning, (2) a reluctance to deduct points from solutions that might be correct, and (3) a tendency to assume correct reasoning. When these values are in conflict, the conflict is resolved by placing the burden of proof on either the instructor or the student. When the burden of proof is placed on the instructor, points are not deducted for student work unless the instructor can find evidence of mistakes or incorrect student reasoning. When the burden of proof is placed on the student, points are not awarded unless the student shows evidence of correct reasoning.
In this study, we verified that this gap exists among earth science faculty and that the same three values are present. We interviewed nine Earth Science instructors from two Midwest research universities about their grading practices. Overall, we found that only 33% of earth science instructors placed the burden of proof on students, requiring the students to demonstrate correct reasoning in order to earn points. Similar to the physics study, we found that although all of the instructors stated that they valued seeing student reasoning, over 50% of them placed the burden of proof on themselves, and graded work in such a way that could actually discourage students from showing their reasoning. This work may contribute toward a better alignment between values and practice in grading student work, and promote learning environments that are more likely to encourage students to show their work when solving numerical problems.