The liberating grading system

Yes. Liberating.  For me and my students.  Here are two of the most important elements of my new system: how they earn their semester grade and how they earn credit for a speech.

First, they earn their semester grade by deciding how many assignments they will complete at the basic level.  Completing five assignments at a basic level earns them an A, four a B, three a C and so forth.  There are two required traditional face-to-face in-class speeches that are standard across the department’s 180 sections.  Nothing new or different here–one is informative and the second is persuasive. But every assignment is credit/no credit.

Then I offer them six assignments from which they can choose one, two or three (depending on the grade they want), some of which can be completed in the public realm of the web, some in other face-to-face situations or in our classroom.  One important option (at least I think–we’ll see what happens with it) is an assignment that they make up (with my approval of course) that is directly helpful to them and includes some kind of important communication activity.  I had in mind helping them practice for a toast or a job interview but I don’t know what they’ll come up with. I’ll talk more about these optional assignments in upcoming blogs and you can see more explanation in the syllabus.

Here is the other liberating element–the “grade” sheet.  No more points attached to every single thing they are supposed to do.  While I thought that was giving them specific instructions on how to get a good grade, it was also giving them a whole lot of ways they could fail.  Instead, I am giving them for the first speech eight things they must do in order to get credit for that speech.  I’m not giving them points according to how well they do each element, but I WILL GIVE THEM FEEDBACK.  So if they give me a typed outline but the grammar is poor, I will mark their outline to teach them, but not penalize them for poor writing.

The eight elements are:


  1. Typed

2. Written in full sentences

3. Written in outline format

4. Have three sources, cited in the body and the bibliography

5. Handed in prior to  presenting the speech


  1. Must be 3-5 minutes

2. Presented extemporaneously

3. Must speak so we can hear and understand the presentation

That’s it.  I think they believe they can do this and I will be thrilled if they do all of the above.  So each assignment is basically credit/no credit and they have to perform to a basic standard to get the credit.  No extensive and detailed grading sheets that intimidate them and oppress me.

We’ll see how this goes in a couple weeks.

35 thoughts on “The liberating grading system

  1. Liberating grading is a great system and most importantly the educator will not be blamed by the student’s final grade. Every student is responsible for their performance for their assignment in a proficient manner and if they decide to be neglectful then it’s their problem. What I also like is that there’s no pressure in completing your goals and the professor will never “intimidate” you about doing the work. Accountability, in general, is very important in order to be successful in life. This will teach us a valuable lesson in the future such in the workplace you need to have accountability of everything in order to earn trust, loyalty and people can rely on with no problem which leads to promotions and other beautiful things in life.

  2. Liberating grading systems is actually a great way for students to get credit because this is a way to show who really wants to learn and pass. This is all based upon the students determination and not the teachers way of criticizing and judging a stupid based on their skills. Most students who get a bad grade from what I’ve seen normally shut down and begin not to care what they do for the class, this is excellent and it gives me home that students and teachers alike can make a difference in students life by not judging their style of doing something but how they deliver and present it to others.

    1. I agree with you shaji. I also believe the liberating grading system is more inclusive. It builds confidence in the students, knowing you are not being penalized for every mistake you make. Letting us know, we can do it, keep going, there is more than one road to an A. We do not learn from perfection we learn from our mistakes.

    2. This system is to pretty much see who really will make an effort. It’s actually left up to the student which creates more trust between a Professor and student. This makes grading so much easier because we know regardless of feedback or comments it won’t have an affect on our grade.

  3. This method is really helpful for me as a student. It really lets us students decide what grade we want.

  4. You are probably the first professor/ instructor I know that has done this. Others have only been focusing what’s on the fine print and teaching it straight out of the book or slide.

  5. This is really good method for grading and it actually gives the student more opportunity to get better grade. also in a manner they can choose to get either the highest grade or in between or just pass.

  6. This method is actually good bc the student is not looking for a grade. There actually learning & if they do it they still get credit. There’s not fail to it. If the outline is poor they get to do it over instead of getting a low score because of it.

  7. Its a good way of learning and improving us to do better when we get the feedback. Feedback doesn’t grades us but it improve us doing must better then before. Its really good idea of giving the feedback not criticizing their writing but giving them second chance to do better. Its more about how you understand and take feedback as positive way.

  8. This method completely changed my understanding on what a valuable teaching arrangement should be. It always seemed that no matter what I did penalization was a morbidly consistent factor when it came to my grades, and this system completely changed my academic atmosphere for the better. The pressure of mistakes was automatically lifted, and I finally felt confident before I even started. This process has been greatly sustaining and very much an enjoyable experience!

  9. This is definitely very helpful for those students that can’t always get a 100 and this also helps the students that can consistently get good grades because it allows for them to be creative with their speeches.

  10. I think that your grading system is smart and thoughtful. Not many teachers put an effort to show that they care about their students. This grading system leaves room for discussions between students and students or teacher and students. Students will no longer feel the pressure to memorize everything in class in order to get an A or pass. Instead at the beginning of the semester students can decide what grade they want to reach for and how. The best thing you have done is supplying the requirements for each separate assignment. Allowing students to receive a credit for each assignment if done properly is the best way to give students a higher chance of passing. The education system is already hard enough and so is learning, I think your grading system just makes it a bit easier.

  11. I do believe that this new grading system is extremely liberating. I think it puts the focus less on getting high grades and more on actually learning. I think it also allows the student to get their grade based on their own effort. If a student got a B instead of an A they might partially blame the professor but with this grading system the student has no excuses. I wish more classes had this grading system.

  12. Honestly, I do enjoy the idea of liberating grading system is way more beneficial. It helps students feel the need to work harder and it’s also flexible. It makes it more comfortable and less complicated to worry about one individual task. I love the idea of grading all assignments as a whole. Professor Hollis focuses on being creative which makes that class more interesting academically.

  13. I believe that liberating grading is a good use for the students because it shows who is giving their full attention for the course.

  14. This is actually an amazing idea its great for students so they can choose what grade they want to receive on their own, also a way where it won’t stress them as much with different due dates for different speeches and effect their grades for missing certain speeches.

  15. I like this, but I’m also one of those people who thrive on a deadline and crave structure. So, while even though 3 out of the five assignments I could complete at any point during the semester (after feedback) I find myself working on the assignments at the last minute because I have other, longer assignments to work on. I guess it all just comes down to proper time management though.

  16. I like how a student is able to choose their own projects from a list of suggested activities. Not only that, students can choose the grade they want in the class. This is a very interesting take on modern education. I feel, as a student, this is a fantastic opportunity for both students and professors. Less stress leads to a better class.

  17. You’re very straight forward with what you want in terms of your way of grading and in getting the credit in general. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be as hard to follow this since it’s very straight forward. I actually think more professors should think this way, mostly in subjects where students struggle the most. For the part in where us students get to choose a assignment we want to do depending on the grade we want I think there should be more options to choose from, but the options that are there already are fine too. It shows that you put a lot of effort to help us understand our work or make it easier for us to actually do it since the grading system isn’t as tough.

  18. This system is pretty good because it gives all the students same opportunity, and it make them able to choose how good they want to be in the class, since they already know what they need to do, so they would not have excuses to Fail the class.

  19. It’s very easy for students who want to make an effort to follow these instructions. it’s simple and understandable. If a student cannot follow these instruction then they aren’t ready to be in your class and have let you down. This is the most simple instruction a professor can give.

  20. This system is fair it depends on the student, This give the students a chance to choose their on topic that they want to talk about without being stress about the assignments and let them know what they good at and what are they weaknesses so they can improve themselves.

  21. This is a good method on how to teach, because when we’re doing our work and speeches, it’s helping us retain the information that we have been researching. The way you’re doing the credit/ no credit seems pretty simple so why would one not pass the class.

  22. I agree this class is actually my favorite because it is the least of my worries. it truly does feel liberating because this teaching method benefits both the professor and the students.

  23. You give the students a chance to jump outside of their comfort zone and give them so many opportunities to get credit for a speech assignment. I cannot stress enough how amazing this teaching method is.

  24. The liberating grading system is 100% effective. Personally in your class Professor Glaser, feedback helps me improve on my weak spots for the better. It helps me learn from my mistakes instead of stressing them. Feedback allows us to better ourselves and gives us the chance to learn and achieve what we need to. Not just make us feel as if we’re not good enough because we are taught that a grade defines us, which is not at all true. Honestly Professor Glaser, keep this system up it benefits a lot of students and it encourages us to do better!

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