Grading Accuracy and Completion

One of my pre-planning ideas that actually succeeded enough to stick with me throughout the year was grading assignments for both completion and accuracy. In previous math classes my students had taken, their homework assignments had been graded only on completion, which meant all they needed to do was make some kind of effort on each problem and they would get full credit. I think this arrangement was meant to communicate to them that trying is important, and that as long as they try they shouldn’t feel bad for getting things wrong at first. But the message that many of them received instead was that there is no point in getting any homework problems right, since there will be no reward for it. And if there is no point in getting the problems right, there is no point in giving a genuinely full effort. So the policy that was meant to reinforce effort undercut it severely, not to mention all the learning that was supposed to be taking place.

I figured I would build a bridge for them away from that flawed policy by giving a grade for both completion and accuracy. For example, if a homework assignment consisted of 12 problems, I would write something like this:

Completion: 11/12

Accuracy: 5/12

Total: 16/24

Into my grade book would go the 16/24. Still, with fully half their score coming from effort, some students stressed out BIG TIME about losing points for getting homework problems wrong. Cue the whining. But you know what? My students became more accurate. They began paying more attention to detail. They came to appreciate that some methods led to getting the right answer and others did not. What’s more, they liked getting answers right. I’m pretty sure they liked getting some answers right even more than they liked getting zero answers marked wrong. Just the other day a student (not one of the top scorers) described to me in private how the trying-is-enough policy had changed her as a math student and how leaving it behind had changed her again. She appreciated that I didn’t “take any of [the students’] bull.”

Grading each assignment this way was much more time consuming than just marking down completion and then reading the answers, but was also invaluable to my students’ success and growth.

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