If you’re not ready to get rid of grades entirely, but you don’t want to hear another student ask “What do I have to do to get an A,” consider specifications grading.

In this approach, all assignments are essentially graded pass/fail. It’s often described as a two-level rubric, where you set the expectations for student work, explain how students can meet those expectations, and simply mark whether students have succeeded in meeting expectations on each assignment.

You can keep things as simple as that, although many users of specifications grading also incorporate formative feedback and allow options for revision on some or all assignments. You may, for instance, have low-stakes assignments that students can repeat until they can earn full marks.

One further option, similar to that of contract grading, is to “bundle” assignments such that students can aim for a particular grade by completing certain bundles. For instance, if you have ten assignments over a semester, a student could earn a D by completing a bundle of the five easiest assignments, or a C by completing six, a B by completing eight, and an A by completing 10.

To read more about specifications grading, read articles by Linda B. Nilson and Macie Hall.

Lafayette community members can access Linda B. Nilson’s book Specifications Grading through the Lafayette Libraries.


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