Alternative grading approaches: Experiences and lessons from Fall 2020




n the spring of 2020, college instructors faced many challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic required that we switch our classes from face-to-face to remote environments. In addition to redesigning modes of delivery and course designs, many questioned their use of traditional methods of assessment and their firm adherence to quantitative measures of success. We are among that group and we have each searched for alternative methods of evaluation that encourage flexibility and student choice. Representing different fields of study across the liberal arts curriculum, we explore how alternative grading can help empower and engage all students and can measure individual growth based on the unique goals, talents, and effort of each person in our classes. How can our decisions about how to evaluate student learning support student success, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic? This panel discussion will demonstrate alternative grading approaches such as grading contracts and effort-based grading implemented in several courses and departments at DePauw University in Fall 2020. We will explore motivations for adopting alternative grading approaches, present examples, discuss challenges and successes, and consider outcomes for both students and faculty members.