Hybrid Contract Grading for TAs
Ryan Goehrung, Political Science, UW Seattle
Contract grading has been shown to improve learning outcomes and reduce failure rates, while increasing equity in the classroom by giving students a greater sense of agency over their grades (Danielewicz and Elbow 2009; Inoue 2012). The premise is instructors provide a detailed grading contract that sets clear labor- or criterion-based expectations required to achieve a range of grades. Students then contract with the instructor by declaring their intention to pursue a given grading outcome. Throughout the course, numeric grades are de-emphasized and feedback is framed around progress toward their desired grade outcome. In a controlled study, college students in contract grading courses perceived a higher degree of control over their grades, and grade-related outcomes were significantly improved (Lindemann & Harbke 2011). Considering these benefits, TAs may wish to implement contract grading in their classrooms, yet given their limited control over course design and obligations Yet it is not always clear how TAs who have limited control over the design and content of a course, and obligations to grade based on the instructor’s of record’s criteriaon it is not always clear whether TAs can effectivelycan implement contract grading. I have developedoffer a hybrid form of labor- and criterion-based contract grading that can conform to grading expectations of different instructors, while still offering many pedagogical benefits. I have utilized this approach with success in discussion-base political science quiz sections of 30 undergraduates for both intro and 300-level courses, with exams, essays and participation-based grading components. When polled, my students have reported feeling like they have more agency over their grades and a clearer understanding of expectations. Though some students dislike what they considered ambiguity around their precise letter grade, most report liking that this aspect of grading is de-emphasized.
Does contract grading improve outcomes in the classroom?
RESEARCH METHODS / SCHOLARLY BASISSupported by evidence from controlled classroom trials.
RESULTSContract grading has been shown to improve learning outcomes and reduce failure rates, while increasing equity in the classroom by giving students a greater sense of agency over their grades.
APPLICATIONApplicable in any classroom setting. Presentation is targeted at TAs applying this approach in quiz sections.
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- publisherUniversity of Washington