Implementing Negotiable Grading Schemes

Article by Amy J. Kabrhel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry & 2022-23 Instructional Development Consultant

For years I have seen students enter my courses on the first day of classes eager to engage with the course material who then slowly stop doing the homework but still perform well on the exams. I wondered if this was due to exhaustion, being overwhelmed with other demands on their time, or, frankly, just laziness. On the flip side, I have had students who rock it on the homework and fumble on the exams. I know they have learned the material being assessed but their ability to show me what they have learned via my exams is hindered. There are several reasons for this (undiagnosed learning disability, test anxiety, lack of sleep, etc.), but after 16 years of teaching in higher education, I have finally decided to make my course grading scheme more equitable for the wide variety of students I see in my courses. In Fall of 2022, I implemented a negotiable grading scheme in my CHEM 211 (Principles of Chemistry I) course as detailed below.

Negotiable Grading Scheme for CHEM 211
#1-Consistency Commander #2-Exam Rockstar #3-Quiz Master #4-Final Boss
Exams (4): 40% (10% each) 56% (14% each) 24% (6% each) 40% (10% each)
Final Exam: 15%

(equiv. to 1.5 exams)

21%

(equiv. to 1.5 exams)

9%

(equiv. to 1.5 exams)

25%

(equiv. to 2.5 exams)

Online Homework

(42-lowest 2 dropped):

20%

(0.5% each)

5%

(0.125% each)

40%

(1% each)

15%

(0.375% each)

Pre-Lecture Quizzes

(37-lowest 7 dropped):

10%

(~0.33% each)

3%

(0.1% each)

12%

(0.4% each)

5%

(~0.17% each)

Discussion (4 graded): 5% (1.25% per graded week)
Project: 10%

#1–Consistency Commander: Tends to maintain consistent and successful study/learning strategies across the semester, appreciates the use of homework and quizzes to regularly check in and keep motivation up.

#2–Exam Rockstar: Prefers to spend time studying for exams, does not place a high priority on weekly check-in assessments (homework and quizzes).

#3–Quiz Master: Places a high priority on weekly check-in assessments (homework and quizzes) to regularly keep up with the material, places a lower priority on exams.

#4–Final Boss: Prefers synthesizing knowledge across the term and proving their knowledge acquisition at the end of the semester on the cumulative Final Exam, places a lower priority on weekly check-in assessments.

In this negotiable grading system, students select the grading scheme that best matches their abilities, learning preferences, time constraints, and anxieties. On the first day of classes last fall, I introduced these grading schemes, described each in a bit more detail, and then asked each student to fill out a small sheet of scratch paper with their name and their preferred grading scheme. I made it clear that they were not locked into this scheme on Day 1 but that by reflecting on their choice at the beginning of the semester, they knew where to focus their efforts. After Exam 2 (approximately halfway through the semester), we revisited the grading schemes, and students locked in their scheme for the semester.

On Day 1, half of my students picked #1-Consistency Commander and the other half picked #3-Quiz Master. This did not surprise me since a large number of students have some form of test anxiety. However, after seeing their exam scores on Exams 1 & 2, which were quite good this fall, and seeing how a few of them had started not completing the homework and pre-lecture quizzes on time, a few students switched to #2-Exam Rockstar. After the Final Exam, I calculated each student’s final course grade in each grading scheme (easily done via Excel) and found that most students had picked the scheme that best matched their skills and learning preferences. A few, however, had a higher grade in a scheme different than the one they had selected. I discussed this with them (via email or in person) to help them reflect on their metacognition and to help them get a better sense of their strengths (and weaknesses) as a college student. They were very appreciative of this, and I believe this will help them realize where they may need to focus more of their attention in courses that do not use negotiable grading schemes.

This spring semester, I am using a similar negotiable grading scheme in my CHEM 212 (Principles of Chemistry II) course. Most of my CHEM 212 students took CHEM 211 with me last fall, so they were anticipating this grading system, and when I introduced it on Day 1, they were very thankful. Many of them stated that they wished more of their professors used this system, which is what prompted me to write this blog post. I think negotiable grading schemes are a wonderful way to make your course more accessible and equitable to our students who come from varying backgrounds with unique skill sets that speak to some assessment types more so than others. In addition, negotiable grading schemes give students agency in your course and a feeling that they have more control over their course grades. They can more easily balance their workload and put their efforts into the assessments that matter most to them. As you can see from my schemes presented above, all assignments are still included in each overall scheme; it is their weight that changes. In some cases (e.g., Discussion and Project for my course), the assessment is too important for it to have varying weight from scheme to scheme. This can express to students the value of certain assessments.

One minor drawback is that Canvas can only show one grading scheme. I chose #1-Consistency Commander for the scheme I put in my CHEM 211 Canvas page. This means students who chose a different grading scheme had to see me (or email me) to know what their current grade was on their chosen scheme. Thankfully, if you keep your Excel grade book up to date, this is not too difficult to communicate to those students.

Overall, I found this method of grading liberating for students and wonderful for student-instructor rapport. As mentioned, I am using this method in Spring 2023, and I plan to continue using this method in most of my courses from now on. If you have any questions for me about negotiable grading scheme, I would be more than happy to chat with you about them.

New “Atomic Search” Tool Arrives in Canvas

Course Search Image

In January 2023, UW System added a new Atomic Search tool to Canvas. This tool allows both instructors and students to more easily locate content within Canvas courses by searching for keywords. In a Digital Learning Environment student usability study conducted by UW System, students expressed having difficulties locating course content, especially when the layout of the Canvas course was not clear and consistent. Adding a search tool to Canvas was identified as a potential solution. 

Instructors do not have to take any action to enable the Atomic Search tool in their courses. The search tool appears both in the left global navigation bar as a “Search” icon and in course navigation menus as a “Search” link. Starting a search from the global navigation bar will search within all of a user’s enrollments; starting a search from the “Search” link of a course navigation menu will search only within that course. The search tool respects all of the access restrictions an instructor can apply to course content items, so search results shown to a student will only include content that the student could find through normal navigation of the course. 

The most important consideration for instructors is that the addition of a search tool in Canvas heightens the importance of making sure that outdated course content is unpublished or deleted. While preparing a Canvas course, removing an outdated Page from a course module but then forgetting to delete it entirely from the course is an easy mistake to make. With the arrival of a search tool in Canvas, students are now more likely to encounter an old page that you have removed from a module but never deleted or unpublished. Especially in those courses in which you’ve been reusing and iterating upon the same base of Canvas content over several terms, we recommend reviewing your course “index” pages—Announcements, Assignments, Discussions, and Pages—and deleting obsolete content and abandoned drafts. 

Course delete page

While cleaning up your course, remember that removing a page from a module does not also delete that page from the course. Likewise, deleting a module does not delete its contents. Items that module contained will still be found among the Pages, Assignments, and Discussions index pages of the course. Fully deleting a content item from your course can only be done while viewing that item or while viewing the index page for that item’s type—for example, the list of pages you can view by clicking the Pages link in the course navigation menu. Anytime you plan on removing an unneeded content item from a course module it is a good practice to first unpublish that item so that even if you forget to follow up and delete it, students cannot find it. 

After reviewing your course and deleting old content, we recommend running your course’s Link Validator to scan your course for any links which point at now-deleted content. Remove or update any broken links found by the validator tool. 

Please also keep in mind that new content and content changes will not immediately appear in search results. After a change is made to course content, the search tool needs to “re-index” the course before it can deliver updated search results. For an active course, this re-indexing process happens automatically at least once every 10 hours. 

Additional Resources 

CATL on the MOO-ve: Spring 2023 College Office Hours

CATL will be trying something a bit different this semester by bringing our services directly to instructors. One of our instructional designers, instructional technologists, or our Canvas administrator will be holding office hours for 2 hours per week in each of the four colleges on the Green Bay campus. We will be in CAHSS and CSET on Mondays, in the Cofrin School of Business on Tuesdays, and in CHESW on Wednesdays. In some colleges we’ll be in the same office from week to week. In others we will move around from week to week because their instructors’ offices are located in multiple buildings. We’ll post our location in Teach Tuesday each week and also keep this blog page up-to-date. Please stop by and see us – no appointment necessary!

When will CATL be in your area?

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS)

Mondays from 1 – 3 p.m. Starting Feb. 6, we will be available each Monday, rotating between Mary Ann Cofrin Hall B334 and Studio Arts 255.

Feb. 6: MAC B334
Feb. 13: SA 255
Feb. 20: MAC B334
Feb. 27: SA 255, etc.

College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET)

Mondays from 1 – 3 p.m. Starting Feb. 6, we will be available each Monday, rotating between Environmental Sciences 317 and Laboratory Sciences 468.

Feb. 6: ES 317
Feb. 13: LS 468
Feb. 20: ES 317
Feb. 27: LS 468, etc.

Cofrin School of Business (CSB)

Tuesdays from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Starting Feb. 7, we will be available each Tuesday in Wood Hall 450.

College of Health, Education and Social Welfare (CHESW)

Wednesdays from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Starting Feb. 8, we will be available each Wednesday in Rose Hall 305.

Event Series: The Future of Higher Education (Spring 2023)

 

This spring, UW-Green Bay is facilitating a virtual webinar series for faculty and staff on the future of higher education! Sessions include how to think like a futurist, the future of student services, and the future of academics. Please note that pre-registration is required for all sessions.

Thinking Like a Futurist: Embracing the Slow Pace of Fast Change (Tuesday, Feb. 14, 3 – 4 p.m.)

Encourage the mindset of scanning for signals by seeking insights from the ‘outside, in’ and change from the outside the world of higher education.

  • Facilitated By: Garry Golden, Futurist
  • Moderated By: Jess Lambrecht, Executive Officer, UW-Green Bay

The Future of Student Services in Higher Education (Wednesday, Mar. 1, 3 – 4 p.m.)

This session will focus on the changing landscape of higher education in terms of re-imaging the co-curricular student experience.

  • Facilitated By: Dr. Corey A. King, Chancellor UW-Whitewater
  • Moderated By: Jamie Schramm, Campus Executive Officer, UW-Green Bay

The Future of Academics: Investments to Accelerate Learning/Teaching Success (Wednesday, Apr. 5, 3 – 4 p.m.)

Training and resources are key areas for the academic enterprise to invest in to prepare for future learners and innovate in higher education.

  • Facilitated By: Michael Fischer, Research Advisor, EAB
  • Moderated by: Susan Gallagher-Lepak, Dean, UW-Green Bay

Events on AI, Machine-Generated Content, and ChatGPT (Spring 2023)

Have you heard the term “ChatGPT” and wondered what everyone was talking about? Are you thinking about how artificial intelligence and machine-generated content could help you as a teacher or complicate your ability to assess true student learning? Experts from across UW-Green Bay are coming together to help you! Please read on to learn more about the sessions being offered in Spring 2023.

ChatGPT Workshop (Feb. 10 & 17, 8 – 9:30 a.m.)

We are excited to announce that the Cofrin School of Business, with support from CATL, is hosting a workshop on ChatGPT! Come learn about ChatGPT by Open AI. Join CSB faculty in this interactive workshop to experience the most advanced chatbot and discuss implications for teaching and learning.

The workshop is moderated by Oliver Buechse, Executive in Residence, Cofrin School of Business. It will be offered on two different Fridays, Feb. 10 and 17, from 8 – 9:30 a.m. in the Willie D. Davis Finance and Investment Lab on the first floor of Wood Hall. The workshops are free and open to all UWGB employees. Space is limited, so RSVP as soon as possible!

AI, Teaching, & Learning Series (Feb. 17, Mar. 24, & Apr. 7, 11:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.)

UW-Green Libraries, CATL, The Learning Center, and UWGB faculty are all coming together to offer a series of three workshops on machine-generated content applications and artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT and their potential impacts on teaching and learning. Participants will have the option to attend this series in-person or via Zoom. You can register now for one or all sessions!

Teaching and Learning in the Time of ChatGPT | Friday, Feb. 17, 11:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

UW-Green Bay instructors with expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning will introduce us to AI-content generating tools, like ChatGPT, and their potential uses and pitfalls. Join other instructors for an engaging discussion about the impact on teaching and learning and a brief opportunity to test the tools themselves. 

Writing Assignments and Artificial Intelligence | Friday, Mar. 24, 11:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

ChatGPT and other text-generating tools have raised concerns among instructors whose curriculum relies upon writing assignments from creative writing to lab reports and research papers. In this session, we’ll focus on the implications of these tools on writing and pedagogy, assessment, and curriculum design.  

Designing and Managing Authentic Assessments | Friday, Apr. 7, 11:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Students may inevitably use artificial intelligence and text-generating tools, but there are strategies instructors can explore and use to alleviate instructional stress around student learning. In this session, we will explore strategies for planning and developing authentic assessments to help students actively engage in their learning. This session will also offer instructors resources to help navigate the issues surrounding artificial intelligence and discuss ways to create assessments that embrace or acknowledge the use of AI and text-generating tools.