Less Grading, Better Student Performance

I’m grading less in two ways: number of assignments and number of evaluative categories.  Remember, this is the basic public speaking class.  Traditionally we have 3-4 required f2f speeches.  I am requiring two.  In the last 25 years of my teaching this course, it has always been a panic to get through all of the material along with all of the speeches.  So if a student doesn’t show up ready to give their speech on their speech date, I’ve penalized them a full grade with the hope that this will motivate them to get it done on time.  Major problems with this.  Surprise, threats aren’t real motivating.  Also, punishing the students for not being ready creates a downward spiral so that (as I said before) an early stumble often results in a full-out-fall-flat-on-their-face failure by the end of the semester.  And don’t get me started on my frustration and exasperation, even knowing how complicated my students’ lives are and how few coping mechanisms some of them have.

However, this semester all is goodness and light (so far).  I don’t know why it took me 25 years to figure this out but, miracle of miracles, if I only have two required f2f speeches, we have LOTS of time for them to make up their speeches.  I don’t have to play the bad guy cop AND we have MORE time to learn most of what I want to teach outside of the classes spent on speeches.  And let me tell you, we have finished the speeches (mostly–only two stragglers in two of my sections) and they’ve been really good and really fun to listen to.  Students are showing up more consistently and I’m relaxed and we’re having a good time (so far).

Which brings me to my fewer evaluative categories.  Again, for the last 25 years, I have had very detailed and elaborate speech evaluation forms.  That’s good, isn’t it?  The students know exactly what they have to do to get an A and such?  I mean like 15-20 categories–delivery including eye contact, posture, facial expression and on and on; outline with grammar and evidence and sources and on and on. Five points for eye contact.  Does this student get 3 or 4 points?  Was there any illusion that I was being consistent? No. I thought I was doing them a favor by being so specific, but you know what?  All of these categories and points gave them whole lot of ways they could fail.

It’s all completely different this semester. Remember, there is no A, B, C, no grades, just pass-fail for each assignment.  I’m giving them 8 categories for this first assignment, all of which they have to do to get credit for their speech. (Again–delivery: speak so we can hear you, give a 3-5 minute speech, speak extemporaneously; Outline: Must be typed, written in full sentences, written in outline format, have three sources cited in body and bibliography, hand in prior to the speech.)  And guess what?  They’re doing it.  They look at those eight requirements and are getting them done.  The ones who falter in any of them can do the assignment again or fix the outline and we have TIME for them to do it again.  All of which means (I think) that they’re learning.  I can tell you I’m way happier.  I always received a kazillion “outlines” that didn’t even come close to being proper.  And why not?  It was only worth 10 points out of 100, so something was going to give.  But not anymore.  I chose the eight most important things to require and they’re doing them.

18 thoughts on “Less Grading, Better Student Performance

  1. The 8 requirements made me so less stressed about giving speeches in this class. I was already super excited to finally see a class with a credit/no credit system but upon seeing the 8 requirements, I felt super capable of getting an A in this class. The requirements are very fair, not too difficult, and overall made me feel relieved.

    1. The 8 requirements makes everything a lot clearer and stress free. It makes it easier to understand what we need to do to get the credits. It doesn’t feel forced upon us or makes us nervous at all. It’s simple and easy for both the Professor and the students.

  2. Prof. Glasier this is beautifully said! I wrote in mt last post about how my old teacher used to grade us on specific things we did and most of the time we were nervous because there were about 28 kids in the class. It was jam packed with anxious vibes and created a tense environment mentally and physically! We also had 4 speeches to write each about 3-4 minutes longer than the last and it is hard when you are being yourself and the teacher is closed minded about her ways. I am truthfully very glad that we only had 2 speeches to write and this gave us time to perfect and (if needed) correct/improve on the one that was eh, not so good. We are indeed getting them done because not only is it an intermediate task but we know as students we can get it done.

  3. I agree there is definitely a much clearer idea of what is expected in order to pass the assignment. The fact that there has been more class time devoted to learning and feeling less pressure to think about all the criteria one has to match enables one to speak in front of the class without thinking “Am I looking at everyone long enough? How fast am I speaking? Am I moving around enough? …….” I imagine that there is more of an effort being made on the outline too since no matter how well you do on the speech itself, if the outline is a mess your assignment is incomplete. I also think that having a well prepared outline is incredibly important because the mechanics of performing the speech (eye contact, body language, visual aids, etc.) can be fine-tuned, but the outline needs to make sense in order for the speech to do the same. This skill is highly important.

    1. by you changing you’re ways of grading this semester it kind takes pressure off the students and allows to really progress as a speaker beacuse all you’re doing is giving feedback. the students don’t have to worry about if you’re going to take points off for the way there standing , it’s less stressful you benefit off of it and it makes the student and teacher relationship better.

  4. This reminds me of this video named ‘Teacher vs Student’, in which the public speaker named Prince Ea showed a video about a teacher talking down to a student who has failed his class and telling him that he’s going nowhere in life. His mom was there to witness it as well. Then Ea (the student) stepped up and said to the teacher that don’t call someone a failure if he has failed a test because those are nothing in real life. Instead encourage him to be more creative. He also included the jobs of the future require more about creativity.

  5. I’m glad I had taken your class this semester instead of the past, I feel doing two required speeches is much more manageable for both parties and offers more time for a student to reflect on how they did or even get another shot at improving their presentation the next time. It’s a much more improved system in my opinion making the class more enjoyable while also teaching us the right skills and adjustments needed to be made as being able to talk and present in front of others is a very useful ability.

  6. It’s a great idea when the grade is not that difficult because of the assignment are not that much or harder instead the way the professor teach is easy and fun makes the students learn more and get their attention more

  7. I am happy to be in this class with no credit/ credit class, was worried at the beginning of class how i would pass this class. The assignment are not much as i expected, its really fun class and I’m learning a lot throughout this class. I’m trying my best for this class.

  8. I was very nervous about this class because I though I would be pressured with alot of speeches that would be graded.Being the nervous, shy person I am I though it would have been very difficult for me to receive an A on the way I present my speeches . By taking this class I made a really good decision.Im not pressured with the speeches and due to 8 requirements this made it easier to achieve an A.

  9. The way you grade allows for improvements on both sides. The student improves through the feedback from the students and you of course, and you’re improving your grading by noticing all these little things that many don’t catch onto.

  10. I believe your grading system is well put. Its honestly just up to the students on whether or not they decide to do it. You have your instructions well written and very easy for us to follow and you honestly dont make it hard which is great so tanks for that. But also, for the students who dont come in ready to give a speech or what ever assignment is due you give us a penalty yes, but you still let us do it to get some grade which i respect a lot people you are trying to pass us all. You also make the assignment fun and we get to talk about what we feel is important.

  11. I think the focus should always be on students learning instead of them meeting requirements to get a specific grade. i think this new way of no grade only credit based teaching allows students to relax and be more open to learning instead of focusing on getting a high grade. I think all the assignments are structured in a way that makes a student want to do well in their assignment regardless of not getting a grade.

  12. This makes the assignments more fun and interesting to do in my opinion. I really like the assignments I did. Also loved my speech topics as well. It made doing assignments less stressful and fun.

  13. Credit/No credit system is the best. Personally, getting a grade always stresses me out. And I think the 8 requirements are easy to reach.

  14. Regardless that it took you 25 years to find out, at least you figured it out now and can utilize this to your advantage. Now that you know this, it has helped you to feel less stressed and aggravated, which I find as a huge positive step for you. Teaching should be enjoyable and should make you feel empowered that you are part of a huge factor for educating students. Now that it is less stressful for you, it also means less stress for the students. Seeing the difference in grades is a plus, it shows you how teaching doesn’t have to be in a standardized way but in your way. Grading less and Teaching more.

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