Skills-Based Grading System

My colleague, Jim Halverson, and I were having a conversation in my office about frustrations with grading. The essays were too challenging for some of our lower achieving students and the multiple choice tests weren't challenging the higher achieving students.

Jim remarked, "It should be like a video game."

I said, "What does that mean?"

He said, "Well..."

In the next hour and a half we developed the basis of our new assessment system.

Rather than collecting points or averaging grades, students "level up" through Bloom's taxonomy of learning. We decided that remembering facts would be a "C" level skill. Understanding and expressing ideas would be a "B" level skill, and applying ideas would be an "A" level skill.

We apply the method a little differently, but the concept is the same for our classes. Below is the description I include in the syllabus. I also made a brief video explaining the process since it is different from what the students are accustomed to.


100 level testing system

Four major exams are given during the semester. The tests are based on a video game model allowing students to “level up” their grade as they go. By the class before the first exam, students who have a daily quiz average lower than 80% will take the “C” level Exam I, which will be multiple-choice questions. By the class before the first exam, students who have a daily quiz average higher than 80% will take the “B” level Exam I, which will be essay.

Achieving an 80% on a “C” level exam earns the right to attempt a “B” level exam on subsequent exams. Achieving an 80% on a student’s quiz average by the scheduled exam day, earns the right to attempt a “B” level exam on subsequent exams.

Achieving a “Pass” on two “B” level exams earns the right to attempt an “A” level exam, which requires writing a more advanced essay requiring better developed critical thinking skills. A student’s final grade in the class is determined by the exam taken at the end of the semester.

If the final exam is the student’s:

  • 2nd “A” level exam, then a pass = Student receives an “A” for the course
  • 2nd “A” level exam, then a fail = Student receives a “A-/B+” for the course, depending on participation
  • 1st “A” level exam, then a pass = Student receives an “A-/B+” for the course, depending on participation
  • 1st “A” level exam, then a fail = Student receives a “B” for the course
  • 2nd “B” level exam, then a pass = Student receives a “B” for the course
  • 2nd “B” level exam, then a fail = Student receives a “B-/C+“ for the course, depending on participation
  • 1st “B” level exam, then a pass = Student receives a “B-/C+” for the course, depending on participation
  • 1st “B” level exam, then a fail = Student receives a “C” for the course
  • “C” level exam, then a score of >70% = Student receives a “C” for the course
  • “C” level exam, then a score of 60-69.9% = Student receives a “D” for the course
  • “C” level exam, then a score of <60% = Student receives a “F” for the course

NOTE: IF A STUDENT’S FINAL DAILY QUIZ AVERAGE IS BELOW 70%, THEY WILL ONLY BE PERMITTED TO TAKE THE “C” LEVEL FINAL EXAM. THE BEST GRADE POSSIBLE FOR THE SEMESTER WOULD BE A “C.”

IF A STUDENT’S FINAL DAILY QUIZ AVERAGE IS ABOVE 60%, THEY LOCK IN A “D” FOR THE CLASS

Here is the pdf, listing all the possibilities, test plan.


Upper Level Testing system

Four major benchmarks can be reached during the semester:

B-level benchmarks—a “pass” is at the “B” level

1)     Exam

2)     Article Review

A-level benchmarks—a “pass” is at the “A” level

3)     Book Review

4)     Exam

Students must maintain a weekly forum response average of “good” to be eligible to attempt each benchmark. A student must pass each benchmark at the minimum level before moving to each subsequent one. A “no pass” of any benchmark, means that benchmark must be repeated (with different content) by the date of the next benchmark. The appropriate benchmark documents will need to be submitted on eLearn no later than 5:00 pm on the day they are assigned.

How Your Final Grade Is Determined

  • A:    Pass 2 A-level benchmarks & qualify to submit 4 benchmarks
  • A-:   Pass 1 A-level benchmarks & qualify to submit 4 benchmarks
  • B+: Pass 1 A-level benchmarks & qualify to submit 3 benchmarks
  • B:    Pass 2 B-level benchmarks & qualify to submit 3 benchmarks
  • B-:   Pass 1 B-level benchmark & qualify to submit 3 benchmarks
  • C+: Pass 1 B-level benchmarks & qualify to submit 2 benchmarks
  • C:    Attempt 4 B-level benchmarks.
  • C-:    Attempt 3 B-level benchmarks.
  • D+: Attempt 2 B-level benchmarks.
  • D:    Attempt 1 B-level benchmark.
  • F:     Attempt no B-level benchmarks.

To qualify to attempt a B-level benchmark, a student must have a forum average of “good” for the section by the due dates.

To qualify to take an A-level benchmark, a student must have a forum average of “good” for the section by the due dates & must pass two B-level benchmarks or have taken an A-level benchmark for the previous section

For a benchmark to count as “attempted,” a student must make a serious effort to follow the benchmark instructions. Failing to seriously attempt a benchmark for which a student has qualified will reduce the student’s overall semester grade by one letter. The professor is the sole judge of whether a benchmark qualifies as “seriously attempted.” [For example: A student could pass the first two B-level benchmarks, not seriously attempt either of the A-level benchmarks and receive a “D” in the course.”]


 

Videos explaining the 100-level and Upper Level testing methods: