Education

Pass/fail scoring is an act of sympathy for epidemics. Is this going to stay?

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During his 21-year teaching career, Jesse Stommel said that he has never rated student work. As the executive director of the magazine”Mixed teaching method“Exploring alternatives to traditional assessments, he said that compared with traditional assessments, using student self-assessment better considers all the needs and pressures of their lives.

Therefore, Stommel has reason to believe that when the pandemic forces universities to complete semesters remotely suddenly—when students need more compassion than ever before—his method is already very suitable for the present.

“What I actually found is that during the pandemic, I significantly changed my grading method. The students were very stressed and very demanding on themselves,” he said of his students at Mary Washington University. “It’s not just because they underestimated their performance or abilities. I think it also has something to do with the culture we create in education, especially higher education, which requires a sense of strict citation-no citation.”

Universities around the world Adjust the classification policy to alleviate Increased pressure and sudden loss of support caused by the pandemic. They provide some pass/fail instead of letter grade changes, in order to cushion the impact on students’ GPA.

However, according to Stommel’s measurement standards, these changes did not have the impact that the university imagined. He said that the bureaucracy and complicated language of explaining policies may prevent students who need support the most from taking advantage of these policies.

“We need to completely reimagine how we grade students,” Stommel said. “Even before, during and after the pandemic, students were struggling with food or housing insecurity, or huge loan debts, and couldn’t afford books. How do we measure it in our method hierarchy?”

Damstomel spoke For EdSurge, as the pandemic began to reach its peak in the United States, he planned to give his students everything, as if the university did not provide grading flexibility. The University of Mary Washington finally provided students with traditional grades, with the option of requiring pass/fail on a class-by-class basis. He said at least it should be the opposite, with pass/fail as the default value and letter grade choice.

“Students have to take this action, and it feels like admitting that they can’t succeed in the traditional system. The’pass’ on their transcript communicates the choices they made to anyone,” Stommel said. “Why are we arguing about the details of A or B in a global pandemic?”

Trade-off options

Stommel’s observations reflect the thinking process behind the choice between Aubrey Blake, a graduate student at Downtown University of Houston, weighing letter grades or “satisfactory” at the end of the spring program. Black said it felt like a particularly difficult semester in her non-profit management project.With the pandemic, Texas suffered Winter storm In February, there was a power outage for several days. She also had several intense exchanges with a professor about her homework for which she did not earn credits.

“I got a B. I could fight for an A, but I’m just tired. This guy almost disappointed me because he didn’t pass my grade,” Black said. “Most of these people are non-profit project leaders, CEOs and executive directors-well-known projects in the community. They have no sympathy for the pandemic or winter storms.”

Black said her professor encourages students with a grade of B or lower to choose the satisfied/unsatisfied grading options offered by the university. However, focusing on academic and teaching careers, she does not believe that this is the right move for her.

“The transcript is full of transcripts, and then’satisfied’ or’unsatisfied’, which doesn’t look good.” They will think you got a C or D,” Black explained. “It’s just not that easy to read. “

Natalie Gonzalez, who studies graphic design at the Pratt Institute in New York City, believes that even if her campus closes in March 2020, letter grades will be better for her long-term academic performance. But Gonzalez had no choice in this matter. The university announced in an email that all courses will be graded on a pass/fail basis.

“It really helped a lot of people because we [didn’t] Really knowing what happened, using Zoom is a very new thing,” Gonzalez recalled. But the college made a decision at the end of the semester because the students had been working hard and thought they would grade as usual. “This It’s not the right approach, because people like me put in a lot of effort to get a GPA,” she said.

She was disappointed that university officials had not consulted students before formulating policies.

“We are working hard to improve GPA because at the end of the year, we will receive scholarships. So many students are not happy,” Gonzalez said of the package policy. “I am friends with many people who care about their grades. They are very concerned about their courses. Many people are disappointed.”

Unload pressure

Before the pandemic hits, a two-year MIT experiment to improve scoring flexibility is about to end. It was changed in May 2020 to allow senior students to take up to four courses on a pass/no record basis. For a long time, freshmen get a pass/no record score in the first semester and an ABC/no record score in the second semester.

In response to the pandemic, MIT has also formulated policy Protect the student’s transcript from failing.

It may be surprising that MIT’s well-known institution for its high standards will improve students’ ability to stay away from letter grades. But Ian A. Waitz, the vice president for undergraduate and graduate education, said the policy will improve the overall learning experience. Specifically, it aims to eliminate the temptation of freshmen to schedule courses commonly required by MIT by giving freshmen more opportunities to take passing/no record courses in the future.

“In particular, they sometimes take P/NR courses that they don’t like, so as not to disturb them,” Waitz said. “What we want to do is to encourage them to really explore and participate in courses that will make them individuals and meet the goals they want to pursue to the greatest extent.”

Waitz said this more flexible approach does not contradict the well-known academic rigor of MIT. Although pass/no record scores will not appear on the transcript, students and their professors can still view them.

“Students who came to MIT and many other universities were very, very successful in their high school environment. Then they got here and many people said,’Well, am I as strong as the others here?'” He Explained. “We really want them to work together and focus on learning-and to the extent we can, eliminate competitive dynamics and focus on grades. Especially in the first semester, passing/no record grading is really helpful.”

Advance the dialogue

Stommel says that most universities are talking about restoring pre-pandemic ratings, rather than making permanent changes.Multiple universities Return to normal score Practice during the fall of 2020.Passed by the University of Pennsylvania Urge They have to “think very carefully” before adopting the pass/fail option this spring.

However, for Stommel and the scholars who shared his views, there is a bright spot. He said that the pressure from institutions to change their perceptions of performance and evaluation is triggering a dialogue among teachers around higher education.

“There are books published, articles are being written, teachers are doing experiments-teachers contact me,” he said. “The conversations I have had in the past two years really feel that they have promoted the conversations we need to have.”

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