UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Assessment of teachers' grading practises Dauncey, William Monte


Educators have been using the letter grade system of grading and reporting student achievement for several decades. Since its inception, teachers have derived letter grades from a variety of grading techniques. As a result, this approach to grading has often received criticism from those who question its reliability and usefulness. The purpose of this study was to determine if letter grades could be made more reliable by statistically balancing raw achievement scores prior to aggregation for reporting purposes. Many authors have written to attack letter grades while others have written to defend their use. Some have written to suggest alternatives to letter grades while still other writers have suggested methods of improving grading techniques. However, literature searches have shown that very little research has been done to assess teachers' grading practises and the grades they award students. This investigative study was designed to evaluate the grading methods used by 37 randomly selected elementary school teachers. Information on their methods of grading was collected in three ways: (a) by way of a questionnaire, (b) by having the subjects weight, total, and rank a hypothetical set of raw achievement scores, and (c) by having the subjects submit class records for one reporting period from two subject areas, mathematics and social studies. The raw scores for each class were statistically balanced and the teachers regraded their students based on the revised aggregate totals. In order to control for extraneous and subjective factors, the same grading criterion was used for both the original and the revised aggregate scores. The rankings of the original aggregate scores were compared to those derived from the balanced aggregate scores using the Spearman Rank Correlation Coefficient. The correlations were found to be significant for each record sheet, indicating that the null hypothesis should be rejected for each of the 56 classes studied. Analysis of the class record sheets and questionnaire responses also revealed: (a) that 46% of the 1,314 students involved in the study received a change in letter grade in spite of the significant rank correlation coefficients. This suggests that for many students, the assignment of letter grades was unreliable and based on factors other than total score rankings. (b) that only 5% of the respondents used methods that would apply the desired weighting factors to the raw scores. This suggests that many teachers used unreliable methods to weight assignment scores. (c) that none of the subjects in this study used reliable methods to compensate a student who has missed one or more assignments or tests. This suggests that students who were absent may have been unjustly rewarded or penalized when their aggregate scores were calculated. (d) that 76% of the respondents showed a desire to learn more about collating raw scores and assigning letter grades to aggregate scores. These results suggested that in-service instruction and pre-service training in particular aspects of grading and reporting would be justified for many members of the research sample. Areas of greatest need are those concerning the weighting of raw scores, the allocation of letter grades, and the calculation of compensation scores for students who have missed assignments.

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