6 Alternative Grading Methods for Teachers & 11 Best Tools to Use

May 24, 2024

Grading methods are crucial tools for teachers to evaluate students' progress and understanding. These tools enable teachers to provide valuable feedback to students, help them identify areas for growth, and motivate them to achieve more. By employing various grading methods, teachers can effectively assess their students' learning outcomes and make informed decisions on instructional practices. In this blog, we will explore various grading methods for teachers that can enhance their teaching practices and drive student success. Let's dive in!

What Is Grading & Its Purpose in the Classroom

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Grading in education serves various purposes. First, it evaluates student learning and provides feedback to help students understand their progress. It also motivates students to improve their knowledge and performance. Despite these advantages, there are potential drawbacks to consider when using grades.

Six Common Purposes for Grades

Research by Guskey (2015) has identified six everyday purposes for grades, which include:

  • Communicating information about student learning to parents
  • Providing students with self-reflection opportunities
  • Selecting or grouping students
  • Incentivizing students to learn
  • Evaluating the quality of instruction
  • Providing evidence of a student's lack of effort

The Significance of Establishing the Purpose of a Grade

Susan Brookhart's guidance suggests that before determining grading practices, educators should first establish the purpose of grades in their context. This step is crucial to developing effective grading processes that align with the overall goals of the educational institution. It ensures that grading practices are consistent with the school's mission and vision.

Emphasizing the Importance of Aligning Grading Practices with Educational Goals

Brookhart emphasizes the need for educators to align their grading practices with the school's educational goals. This alignment ensures that grading methods support the institution's vision for student learning. By ensuring that grading practices reflect the overarching educational objectives, educators can optimize the use of grades to achieve desired learning outcomes.

Connecting with AI Essay Grader

EssayGrader is the most accurate AI grading platform trusted by 30,000+ educators worldwide. On average it takes a teacher 10 minutes to grade a single essay, with EssayGrader that time is cut down to 30 seconds That's a 95% reduction in the time it takes to grade an essay, with the same results. 

With EssayGrader, Teachers can:

  • Replicate their grading rubrics (so AI doesn't have to do the guesswork to set the grading criteria)
  • Setup fully custom rubrics
  • Grade essays by class
  • Bulk upload of essays
  • Use our AI detector to catch essays written by AI
  • Summarize essays with our Essay summarizer 

Primary school, high school, and even college professors grade their students' essays with the help of our AI tool. Over half a million essays were graded by 30,000+ teachers on our platform. Save 95% of your time for grading school work with our tool to get high-quality, specific and accurate writing feedback for essays in seconds. 

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Should Teachers Use Letter Grades?

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The letter grade system is a fundamental component of education worldwide. It offers a clear, standardized way to assess student performance and achievement. However, it has its fair share of criticisms and drawbacks. This post will delve into the traditional letter grade system, highlighting its pros and cons.

Pros of Using Letter Grades

  • Some students are genuinely motivated by the prospect of earning high marks. For them, letter grades serve as a powerful incentive to excel.
  • Grades are a form of currency that maintains order in the classroom and encourages students to remain engaged in their studies.
  • Letter grades effectively identify high-performing students, allowing teachers to recognize exceptional academic achievement.
  • They foster accountability among students, as they know the grades they need to maintain or improve.
  • Letter grades offer a straightforward and easily understandable evaluation system that can be consistently applied across grade levels and educational institutions.

Cons of Using Letter Grades

  • Grades can induce significant stress in students, especially as they strive to achieve higher marks or avoid negative evaluations.
  • The categorization of students as “good” or “bad” based on their grades can be detrimental, particularly when it occurs at developmentally inappropriate ages.
  • After high school, the significance of grades diminishes for many students, as they transition to pursuing other goals or career paths. Unless planning to pursue advanced degrees, the focus shifts from the grades obtained to the completion of the educational program.

The traditional letter grade system is deeply intertwined with the educational landscape. While it offers numerous benefits, such as motivation and accountability, it poses challenges, including stress and potential misclassification of students. Educators must recognize the complexities surrounding letter grades and explore alternative evaluation methods to ensure all students receive fair and accurate assessments.

6 Alternative Grading Methods for Teachers

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1. Mastery-Based Education

Mastery-based education helps students master skills appropriate to their grade level. Once students become proficient in a skill, they progress to the next level. For example, in a math class, students may work on mastering the multiplication table. After demonstrating competency a designated number of times, they move on to another skill.

Struggling students don’t get failing grades. Instead, they continue to practice concepts until they’ve grasped them—and then move forward. Teachers update students on their progress, including what they need to master. If students have picked up the skills they need by the end of the school year, they can advance to the next grade level. This system allows students to progress at their own pace. Fast learners can advance quickly and excel, while slower learners have the needed time.

2. Pass/Fail

Pass/fail grading systems are straightforward. Students either receive credit for a class or not. This binary approach allows students to move forward as long as they complete the work that exceeds a failing threshold.

Prioritizing Learning Over Grades

The pass/fail grading system can reduce pressure on students to earn high grades. This pressure can get in the way of learning. In some cases, grades can tempt students to cheat. In others, it can make struggling students withdraw and stop trying. These outcomes result in missed learning opportunities. A pass/fail approach shifts the focus away from grades and eliminates using grades as rewards; instead, learning is the reward.

Broader Benefits of Pass/Fail 

Shifting attention away from grades redirects students. For example, students who might forgo extracurricular activities to get all A’s in a traditional grading system broaden their idea of school success. The pass/fail approach can also minimize competition.

Rather than tracking who earns the highest grades, students can spend more time reflecting on their learning processes and goals. For struggling students, the pass/fail system offers relief and gives them room to concentrate on what they need to work on.

3. Live Feedback

Live feedback involves giving students constructive criticism and advice as they work. Rather than receiving an assessment at the end of an assignment, students receive guidance and input from their teachers while they work.

The live feedback approach emphasizes collaboration between teachers and students. Teachers help students along the way, responding to individual student needs. Students feel encouraged and guided when they don’t immediately understand a concept. Live feedback has the advantage of giving teachers essential insights into student learning in real time. This allows teachers to gauge better what materials to review in lessons and how to pace instruction.

4. Self-Assessments

Self-assessments are another way to track student progress. Students consider the goals and learning objectives relevant to an assignment and then evaluate their work’s quality in light of those standards. Their self-assessments identify their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to see where they need to improve.

Self-assessment is reflective. By establishing their measures for performance, students monitor their learning processes and gain ownership of their learning. Self-assessments allow students to become problem solvers, shifting the focus from end results to process.

5. Digital Portfolios

Digital portfolios are multimedia collections of student work. They showcase student learning and skills and allow teachers and students to curate students’ best work.

Self-Reflection and Growth

Students explain their own portfolio pieces, which allows them to self-reflect. Portfolios offer a holistic way for teachers to assess students’ progress. A portfolio typically includes work from throughout the school year. Choosing representative pieces over time lets students reflect on the learning process and note how they’ve grown.

Portfolios as a Comprehensive Assessment Tool

Portfolios also give students various opportunities to demonstrate they reached learning objectives and standards. For example, although students may not have performed well on an exam about literary analysis, they can include a project in which they skillfully analyzed Macbeth.

6. Gamification

Gamification in education involves applying game design concepts to learning in a way that tracks student progress. It turns mastering the skills and subject matter into a game. In doing so, gamification offers a fun, motivational alternative to letter-based grading.

For example, teachers can replace letter grades with point systems. Students collect points for various achievements. Points can buy students badges that show their mastery of concepts or skills. This approach converts homework and class time into opportunities to advance, as in a game. The process can be inspirational.

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Top 11 Tech Tools for Teachers to Improve Grading

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1. EssayGrader - A Time-Saving AI Grading Platform

EssayGrader is the most accurate AI grading platform trusted by 30,000+ educators worldwide. On average it takes a teacher 10 minutes to grade a single essay, with EssayGrader that time is cut down to 30 seconds That's a 95% reduction in the time it takes to grade an essay, with the same results. 

With EssayGrader, Teachers can:

  • Replicate their grading rubrics (so AI doesn't have to do the guesswork to set the grading criteria)
  • Setup fully custom rubrics
  • Grade essays by class
  • Bulk upload of essays
  • Use our AI detector to catch essays written by AI
  • Summarize essays with our Essay summarizer 

Primary school, high school, and even college professors grade their students' essays with the help of our AI tool. Over half a million essays were graded by 30,000+ teachers on our platform. Save 95% of your time for grading school work with our tool to get high-quality, specific and accurate writing feedback for essays in seconds. 

Get started for free today!

2. Parlay - Facilitating Rich Text Discussion

For those of us who like to discuss rich texts with students, Parlay lets us connect with students remotely, facilitate discussion, and track how the dialogue builds. As students respond, Parlay shows who is contributing and where the conversation is moving as the software visually tracks student responses in a discussion web. 

Teachers can use built-in tools to assess the frequency of students’ answers in real time, even when students are not in the same room. Teachers can then spend their time on deeper-level assessment of the depth of student responses, which can also be recorded.

3. Flip - Supporting Digital Projects and Feedback

One of the most popular tech tools in schools, Flip, has won praise from teachers across the country because it gives students the flexibility to submit digital projects and effectively supports peer and teacher feedback.

4. Edpuzzle - Interactive Video Clips for Assessment

I’ve used Edpuzzle for a while, but it became much more vital as more of my content shifted online. Teachers use Edpuzzle to make video clips interactive by requiring student responses, which are easy to collect and assess.

5. Pear Deck - Interactive Google Slides for Immediate Feedback

Pear Deck does to Google Slides what Edpuzzle does to videos. Slides become interactive, and teachers are able to collect feedback immediately.

6. Prezi - Visual Presentation for Engaging Content

I’ve used the virtual presentation software Prezi for years, and I appreciate a recent update that allows me to be on the same screen with the graphics, creating a more engaging presentation. Prezi offers teachers another tool to capture short lectures, explanations, or other content in a more visually appealing and personal way than as a disembodied voice or thumbnail in the bottom corner of a screen.

7. Screencastify - Encouraging Student Explanation

Every student can be Sal Khan working out problems with explanations. This tool was first recommended to me by a teacher in Kenya, who explained how Screencastify transformed her math assessments by allowing students to show what they’re thinking from wherever they happen to be working. Screencastify is also valuable for reducing cheating as teachers can observe students working and explaining problems instead of just recording answers.

8. Mural - Virtual Collaboration for Visual Representation

This has been a lifesaver for virtual collaboration. Mural allows teachers, students, and other contributors to write on virtual sticky notes and then organize and reorganize them in real time. The best in-person meetings are always the ones where the collective expertise of the room can be captured visually, and if we can’t be in the same room with students—or colleagues—Mural is the next best thing.

Even better, there’s no need to go back and summarize or clean up evidence from the meeting. The Mural is the artifact. Many teachers are now using Jamboard in a similar way.

9. Gimkit - Engaging Review and Surface Learning

Created by a high school student who thought he could improve upon Kahoot!, Gimkit allows teachers to create question sets that students can answer over and over again while competing against each other, which is great for surface learning and review. Because Gimkit allows for repetition of answers and has a variety of ways for students to earn points, students remain engaged as they work at their own pace.

10. Mentimeter and Slido - Real-Time Feedback Tools

These are both excellent for collecting feedback from groups, so I’ve ranked them together. I use these almost weekly for professional learning and in my classes. Slido allows participants to ask questions and then upvote others. There are many similar tools, but Slido is easy and free. Mentimeter allows students and teachers to collect real-time data on questions they have, in the form of word clouds, rankings, and various scales. These are great discussion starters that allow everyone to contribute to the collective wisdom of the group.

11. Learning Management System - Organizing Educational Delivery

A good LMS is key to reducing stress for teachers, students, and parents. A list like this one would be counterproductive if it left your educational delivery fragmented among disparate tools, and a good LMS helps you organize everything into a one-stop shop. I personally love Canvas and Schoology, but I know many teachers have worked miracles with Google Classroom, which is “free.” I use those quotes for a reason: Google Classroom is only truly free if it is not requiring significantly more human capital in the form of time and energy than a fee-for-service platform like Canvas or Schoology. 

The most significant asset for managing learning in the chaos of this school year has been staying organized, and Canvas has been a lifesaver for me. I have taught virtually, led professional learning across many time zones, delivered content asynchronously, and taught students in masks with others Zooming in due to quarantine, Covid, or personal preference. For me, nothing will ever replace in-person teaching and learning, but like many other teachers and administrators, I now know how to effectively facilitate learning in a previously unimaginable set of circumstances.

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Save Time While Grading Schoolwork — Join 30,000+ Educators Worldwide & Use EssayGrader AI, The Original AI Essay Grader

EssayGrader is a cutting-edge AI platform designed to simplify and enhance the essay grading process for teachers. Imagine grading a single essay in just 30 seconds, saving 95% of the time typically needed for this task. This innovative tool leverages teachers' grading rubrics to ensure precise and consistent grading standards, eliminating guesswork from the equation. With EssayGrader, teachers can customize their grading rubrics, grade essays by class, and upload essays in bulk for efficiency.

The AI detector feature helps identify essays created by AI, enhancing the integrity of the grading process. To further streamline feedback, teachers can use the Essay Summarizer tool, which provides concise overviews of each essay. Teachers across different academic levels have embraced this tool, grading over half a million essays collectively. 

Join the growing community of educators benefiting from this time-saving and accurate essay grading solution.

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