Testing and Grading


Testing and grading are integral components of course design. When linked to course goals, testing and grading offer a means to assess students' learning and also the effectiveness of teaching. This section provides information on key issues in testing and grading as well as ideas for improving several kinds of tests.


General Resources

Testing and Grading Issues (University of Michigan, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching).
This well-designed site has links that cover multiple aspects of testing and grading from a basic introduction to testing and measurement to such specific issues as improving multiple choice tests and advice on writing and grading essay questions.

Assessment Terminology: A Glossary of Useful Terms (New Horizons for Learning).
This site contains clear definitions of assessment terms from accountability to validity.

Authentic Assessment Toolbox (Jon Mueller, North Central College)
An online how-to-text on creating authentic tasks, rubrics, and standards for measuring and improving student learning K-16.

"Best Practices for Designing and Grading Exams" by Mary E. Piontek, (University of Michigan, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, Occasional Paper #24, 2008)
Guidelines for designing valid and reliable grading instruments, including essay exams, a rubric for critical papers, multiple-choice exams and more.

How to Prepare Better Tests: Guidelines for University Faculty,” by Beverly B. Zimmerman, Richard R. Sudweeks, Monte F. Shelley, and Bud Wood ( Brigham Young University ).
A handbook that covers developing a test; preparing, assembling, and administering a test; evaluating and scoring a test; and interpreting test results.

Grading Systems (University of Minnesota, Center for Teaching and Learning Services
Discusses norm-referenced, criterion-referenced, and other grading systems. Concludes with five important points for designing a good grading system for a course.

"Improving College Grading," Gerald S. Hanna and William E. Cashin, Kansas State University. (IDEA Paper No. 19, January 1988). PDF/Adobe Acrobat.
This paper discusses the limitations of percentage and class-curve grading and recommends anchor grading, which the authors feel is a more meaningful grading system.

Assessment of Teaching & Learning (University of Southern California, Center for Excellence in Teaching).
The numerous links on this comprehensive site address a variety of issues in student and program assessment.

VALUE: Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (Association of American Colleges and Universities).
A few minutes completing a sign-in form gives free access to 15 downloadable rubrics in three areas. 1) Intellectual and Practical Skills, such as Critical thinking or Written communication; 2) Personal and Social Responsibility, such as Ethical reasoning; and 3) Integrative and Applied Learning. Each rubric was developed by teams of faculty and educational professionals and reflects “faculty expectations for essential learning across the nation.”

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Additional Issues in Grading

Grading on a Curve

Improving College Grading,” Gerald S. Hanna and William E. Cashin (IDEA Paper #19, January 1988).
Pros and cons of class-curve grading (mainly cons).  Explains and promotes use of anchor measures, norm-referenced grading, with examples. 

How to Curve an Exam and Assign Grades (Division by Zero, Blog entry posted by Dave Richeson, Associate Professor Mathematics, Dickinson College, Dec. 22, 2008).
His thoughts on when you should (or should not) curve an exam.  Ten sample curving techniques with pros and cons of each. “To curve or not to curve’ is first section.

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Extra Credit

Should you offer extra credit?” Eliana Osborn (The Chronicle of Higher Education, blog, The 2-Year Track, June 16, 2011).
Has mixed feelings about it, but has done it.  Osborn considers it “a clear way of showing what I value and want students to value.”

No Extra Credit for You,” Jack Slay, Jr., (The Chronicle of Higher Education:  Advice, May 3, 2005).
Writer has no-extra-credit policy.  Explains why.

Is there any problem with giving lots of extra credit? (Academia Stack Exchange, September 2014).
Academia is a Q & A site posting several responses to the writer’s question and her description of what she’s currently doing with extra credit.

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Grade Inflation:  Myth and Reality

Four Articles from Tomorrow’s Professor Mailing List Postings, Stanford University:

#587  Grade Inflation…Why It’s a Nightmare, Jonathan Dresner,  (no date given).

#584  Grade Inflation:  It’s Not Just an Issue for the Ivy League, John Merrow, June 2004.

#444  Curbing Grade Inflation,” Phillip Wankat and Frank Oreovicz, October 2002.

#377  “The Grade Inflation Myth” from Chapter 15, “Now I Know My ABC’s:  Demythologizing Grade Inflation,” by Jeremy Freese, Julie E. Artis, and Brian Powell in The Social Worlds of Higher Education:  Handbook for Teaching in a New Century, Eds. B.A. Pescosolido and R. Aminzade, Pine Forge Press, 1999.

Grade inflation gone wild,” Stuart Rojstaczer, The Christian Science Monitor, March 24, 2009
Cites schools where grade-inflation is obvious and names schools where they are actually trying to do something about it.

Grade Inflation
Website created by Stuart Rojstaczer to demonstrate grade inflation at American colleges and universities.  Last major update, March 10. 2009.

The Initiative to End Grade Inflation in Higher Education.
Demonstrates grade inflation in higher education with the goal of establishing ”meaningful standards in higher education.”  Cites many sources, articles, resources; charts recent trends to 2002.

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