Grading In Multi-Sectioned Courses

Some rather unique grading problems are associated with large, multiple-sectioned courses taught by many different instructors under the direction and leadership of one head instructor. In many of these situations there is a common course outline or syllabus, common text, and a set of common classroom tests. The head instructor is often concerned about the potential lack of equity in grading standards and practices across the many sections. To promote fairness and equality, the following conditions might be established as part of course planning and monitored throughout the semester by the head instructor:

  • The number and type of grading components (e.g., papers, quizzes, labs, exams) should be the same for each section.
  • All grading components should be identical or nearly equivalent in terms of content and level of difficulty.
  • Section instructors should agree on the grading standards to be used (e.g., cutoff scores for grading quizzes, papers, or projects; weights to be used with each component in formulating a semester total score; and the level of difficulty of test questions to be used).
  • Evaluation procedures should be consistent across sections (e.g., method of assigning scores to essays, papers, lab write-ups, and presentations).

Though all of these conditions can be addressed in the course planning stage, their implementation may be a more difficult task. Successful implementation requires a spirit of compromise between section instructors and the head instructor as well as among section instructors. Frequent review of instructor practices by the head instructor and constructive feedback to the instructors are also needed. The following guidelines contain suggestions for promoting equity in grading across multiple sections:

  • To establish common grading components in each course section, all section instructors should agree at the beginning of the course on the number and kind of components to be used. Agreement should also be reached on the weighting given each component and final requirements for each course grade (A, B, C, etc.).
  • To encourage instructional adequacy across sections, many head instructors distribute the same course objectives, outlines, lecture notes and handouts to all section instructors. If each instructor is allowed to contribute to the construction of common tests, quizzes, or projects, the section instructors will become more aware of important course content and the expectations of the head instructor. This awareness will also serve to "standardize" section instruction.
  • Prior to the administration of an exam, quiz or project, all instructors should standardize the administration of grading procedures. A good way to do this is through rubrics, introduced in Evaluating Written Work.
  • In cases where the grading of particular components is more subjective than objective, organized group practice helps to standardize grading procedures. For example, head instructors may wish to distribute examples of A, B, or C quality projects to section instructors as models prior to the grading of their own class projects. Or, groups of instructors may wish to practice grading a stack of essay exams by circulating and discussing their individual ratings. Through such group practice the instructors involved can compare their evaluation practices with one another and become more uniform over time.
  • Any grading or evaluation changes made in a particular section should be implemented in all sections.