Grading systems to guide success


Zachary Araki/The LIon's Roar

Kamryn Chambers, a freshman communication sciences and disorders major, left, and Anthony Freeman, a senior business management major, right, study in the Sims Memorial Library. Depending on the class and grading structure, students may find themselves adapting their study habits to succeed.

With different classes and teachers, students may need to adapt to various grading formats and studying methods.

Dr. Tara Lopez, associate professor of marketing, uses a 10-point grading scale weighted towards projects and assignments. She discussed how her classes emphasize projects over tests.

“Juniors and seniors need to be able to apply the course concepts in situations that mimic what they will be doing after graduation,” said Lopez. “Tests are great for assessing a foundation of knowledge, but application requires moving beyond memorization.”

Although Lopez does not grade participation as engaging in class discussion, she finds her own way to include the metric.

“I have found it difficult for me to keep up with that when I have 40-ish students in a class,” shared Lopez. “However, I do a lot of activities and required assignments, such as attending a networking event, that prevent students from simply sitting in class and passively receiving information.”

For Dr. Lucy Kabza, professor of mathematics, two tests, a final exam worth 50 percent more than a regular test, and homework and quizzes totaling the equivalent of one test comprise her general class structure.

While participation may not directly convert into points, Kabza believes it helps students learn.

“I assign problems in class, so if you don’t participate, you’ll have problems afterwards,” explained Kabza. “If you don’t come to class, you will have problems afterward. Indirectly, it certainly influences the grade and performance, but directly, if someone sits and takes a nap, I don’t think I can do much about it.”

Every subject area can serve best in a certain class structure and study system.

“Since English generally involves lots of reading and writing, both of which take thought, I believe doing the assignment early with time to review, proofread and edit, is the best way to succeed,” stated Dr. Joan Faust, professor of English. “Also, the student should work in an area that will not distract from the task at hand including TV, friends and phone.”

Faust uses a total points system, attributing fewer points to less important assignments. She discussed her decision not to curve grades.

“It can become a slippery slope,” said Faust. “If assignments are fair and challenging, students should earn the grade they deserve.”

In general, Kabza does not curve grades unless a test was too difficult.

“Mathematics is very objective in a way,” explained Kabza. “You know what you know, and it shows. I don’t like students who don’t know the material to get a passing or good grade because it just shouldn’t be. I’m very careful with curve.”

According to Kabza, the incremental nature of learning mathematics requires setting deadlines leading up to a test.

“You cannot really learn mathematics in one week,” Kabza shared. “It’s important to give students incentive to learn it over time. That’s why there’s so many tests and quizzes and homeworks. So, on any given week, there’s something going on.”

Lopez attributed the largest cause of failing a class to a lack of commitment resulting in not studying or completing assignments. She discussed how students can study better.

“Don’t rely on PowerPoint slides,” said Lopez. “Too many students study PowerPoints. These are a presentation tool, not a study tool.”

Kabza advised students to read the material before class if only to familiarize themselves with the vocabulary.

“When I lecture, they don’t have to pay attention to the vocabulary because they already know it,” stated Kabza. “They can pay attention to the material and understanding it. That’s number one. Keeping on top of all the assignments and re-doing. Mathematics is repetitive to some degree. If you work out even the same problems, it will sink in better.”

Developing a grading system can carry its own challenges though professors may try to create one that best serves their subject area and students.

Faust said, “Grading is probably the hardest part of teaching since it intimidates students and prompts them to focus on grades and not on understanding and appreciating the material, but it’s a necessary evil in the profession, and I strive to be as fair and accurate as possible.”