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Boesdorfer, S. B., & Daugherty, J. (2020). Using Criteria-Based Digital Badging in High School Chemistry Unit to Improve Student Learning. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 29(3), 421-430.
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Boesdorfer, S. B., Baldwin, E., & Lieberum, K. A. (2018). Emphasizing learning: Using standards-based grading in a large nonmajors’ general chemistry survey course. Journal of Chemical Education, 95(8), 1291-1300.
Many students associate grades with the completion of course work rather than learning the course content. While research has heavily focused on teaching strategies and instructional tools to improve students’ learning in general chemistry, less focus has been given to assessments as a learning tool to improve students learning. Standards-based grading (SBG) is a nontraditional assessment method that explicitly connects the learning course objectives with assessments and student grades. Provided with more than one opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of course objectives, students are evaluated on their level of achievement of these objectives. This article describes the implementation, outcomes, and challenges of SBG in a large enrollment nonmajors’ general chemistry course. Evidence is presented regarding the use of SBG in chemistry from the evaluation of two semesters of students’ assessment scores and a student opinion survey. Students appeared to use the structure of the SBG to pass the course at higher rates than previous semesters, demonstrated some metacognitive skills, and generally appreciated SBG as the assessment method in the course.
Houseknecht, J. B., & Bates, L. K. (2020). Transition to Remote Instruction Using Hybrid Just-in-Time Teaching, Collaborative Learning, and Specifications Grading for Organic Chemistry 2. Journal of Chemical Education, 97(9), 3230-3234.
Just-in-Time Teaching, collaborative learning, and specifications grading were used for Organic Chemistry 2 during the switch to remote instruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during Spring 2020. Relatively minor adjustments to the face-to-face instructional plan enabled remote instruction and assessment of all planned learning objectives to continue with students demonstrating mastery of 98% of the essential learning objectives and 57% of the additional learning objectives both before and after the transition to remote instruction. Most components of the course were delivered asynchronously through the course learning management system. Office hours, mastery quiz retakes, and review of quiz solutions occurred via Zoom because of the necessary two-way communication during these activities. Most collaborative learning teams chose to work synchronously as well, though one group reported success communicating via text messaging. Learning assessment and survey responses indicate that students felt supported in their learning, met the course learning objectives, and did not engage in measurable academic dishonesty.
Howitz, W. J., McKnelly, K. J., & Link, R. D. (2020). Developing and Implementing a Specifications Grading System in an Organic Chemistry Laboratory Course. Journal of Chemical Education.
Large, multisection laboratory courses are particularly challenging when managing grading with as many as 35 teaching assistants (TAs). Traditional grading systems using point-based rubrics lead to significant variations in how individual TAs grade, which necessitates the use of curving across laboratory sections. Final grade uncertainty perpetuates student anxieties and disincentivizes a collaborative learning environment, so we adopted an alternative grading system, called specifications grading. In this system each student knows exactly what level of proficiency they must demonstrate to earn their desired course grade. Higher grades require demonstrating mastery of skills and content at defined higher levels. Each students’ grade is solely dependent on the work they produce rather than the performance of other students. We piloted specifications grading in the smaller, third quarter course of the lower division organic chemistry laboratory series held during a summer term. Open-ended questions were chosen to gather student and TA perceptions of the new grading system. TAs felt that the new grading system reduced the weekly grading time because it was less ambiguous. Responses from students about the nature of the grading system were mixed. Their perceptions indicate that initial buy-in and multiple reminders about the bigger picture of the grading system will be essential to the success of this grading system on a larger scale.
Ring, J. (2017). ConfChem conference on select 2016 BCCE presentations: specifications grading in the flipped organic classroom. Journal of Chemical Education, 94(12), 2005-2006.
Specifications Grading is a system of course-long student assessment based on the division of learning objectives into clearly defined skill tests or assignments. Each skill is evaluated at a mastery level, with opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes and then be re-evaluated for skill tests, or resubmit assignments. Specifications Grading was adapted into a previously flipped, first-semester organic chemistry course, with generally positive feedback from both the professor and the students. This Communication summarizes one of the invited papers to the Select 2016 BCCE Presentations ACS CHED Committee on Computers in Chemical Education online ConfChem held from October 30 to November 22, 2016.
Tienson-Tseng, H. L. (2019). Best Practices in Summative Assessment. In Biochemistry Education: From Theory to Practice (pp. 219-243). American Chemical Society.
In most of higher education, students are assigned grades based on an assessment of knowledge and skills they have after completing the course. This is known as summative assessment, and is different from formative assessment, which is used to provide feedback to students about their ongoing learning. Grades related to summative assessment are used to allow students to move on to higher level courses, as well as to evaluate the suitability of the student for graduate programs, professional schools, and/or employment. Thus, it is imperative that these assessments are as accurate, fair, and unbiased as possible. In order to accomplish this, the students must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, the assessment must actually assess those skills, and the assignments must be evaluated consistently for every student. In addition to assigning grades, summative assessment can also be used to assess the overall effectiveness of instruction and therefore to inform curricular changes within the course or an entire program.
Toledo, S., & Dubas, J. M. (2017). A learner-centered grading method focused on reaching proficiency with course learning outcomes. Journal of Chemical Education, 94(8), 1043-1050.
Getting students to use grading feedback as a tool for learning is a continual challenge for educators. This work proposes a method for evaluating student performance that provides feedback to students based on standards of learning dictated by clearly delineated course learning outcomes. This method combines elements of standards-based grading into a framework that uses Marzano’s Taxonomy of Learning to guide the writing of clearly defined and scaffolded learning outcomes. By means of this methodology, students are equipped with increased levels of information obtained from assessments, both formative and summative. Students and faculty alike can more accurately diagnose strengths and weaknesses in learning down to the level of the concept(s). Early observations from a first-semester general chemistry course suggest that setting transparent standards for grading can serve as a valuable learning tool for students to allow them to focus on content proficiency rather than grades alone.
Townsley, M., & Schmid, D. (2020). Alternative grading practices: An entry point for faculty in competency‐based education. The Journal of Competency‐Based Education, 5(3), e01219.
**Was used in a chemistry class among other courses**
Due to a lack of buy‐in from multiple stakeholder groups, institutions of higher learning may struggle to reorient their entire course and program offerings to embrace the full breadth of competency‐based education. One such way of overcoming these systematic issues to make incremental progress toward competency‐based education is to consider practices such as grading that single professors can implement without the need of full institutional support. Few college instructors are likely to have received any formal grading training. As such, they may rely on institutional norms and their personal experiences as students. In response to historical grading challenges in higher education, some faculty members have adopted models working against the status quo such as mastery grading, specifications grading, and standards‐based grading, which all promote students demonstrating their learning on criterion‐referenced tests in a more flexible time frame. The purpose of this paper is to describe alternative forms of grading as an entry point for faculty incrementally progressing toward competency‐based education axioms in higher education. The authors recommend a multiple‐step course design framework and areas for future research.