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Understanding the results, whether or not they agree with expectations.
Decision-making skills based on results both expected and unanticipated (application of theory).
Method of recording, presenting, and analyzing data; observations and results (the notebook and final report).
Performance of physical manipulations (technique).
Rondini and Feighan (1978) describe a chemistry lab in which they give students at the end of each lab a numerical score for specific attributes, such as the product yield, equipment setup, handling of chemicals, purity of product, time to completion, technique, safety procedures. These scores are added to the grades for their lab reports and notebooks. Thus, students know quickly what aspects of their lab techniques need improvement and can use this information as a catalyst for change. Joshi (1991) asks students to prepare and submit their lab reports on-line. The computer checks and grades the quality of input data; performs and displays the necessary calculations; checks and grades students' calculations and accuracy of the results generates a grade report; and displays the grading scheme used.
When assigning essays or written reports as activities for grading, explain to students the important aspects of the assignment and describe how it will be graded. One might include content, research, references, reasoning, data analysis and clear expression (see sidebar for an example). Another aid to student learning is to grade first drafts and give students a chance to resubmit an improved version. If instructor time is a significant deterrent to this approach, students can exchange draft reports with a partner or gather in a group and critique one another's drafts.
Oral reports and presentations can be difficult to grade, especially when students have little experience with this skill. It can be hard to overlook poor delivery and focus on content. Some faculty members develop a scoring rubric that weight these two components unequally, and which give credit for effective use of visuals. When students do more than one presentation in a term, the weight given to delivery is increased to reflect the expectation that they will have improved with experience.
Group activities are difficult to grade on an individual basis. Most instructors find that a good way to grade a group is to make the entire group responsible for the answers, presentation, and results, by giving each group member the same grade. This encourages stronger students to help less able students. Observing the groups in action will give you an idea of how each participant performs as a partner. Students are also quite cognizant of their contribution and their fellow classmates' contribution. One approach is to ask students to estimate the percentage of the final project that can be attributed to each group member, including themselves. You can use these ratings from all members to construct a participation score, so that there are slight differences when one group member contributes significantly more or less than the others. Some recommend that group activity grades account for only a small portion of a student's overall grade in the class (Johnson et al., 1991).
You will need to decide how to address homework problems, if you feel that these are an important aspect of student learning. If you choose not to collect and grade them, many students will interpret that as a signal that you do not consider them important. However, some faculty get around this problem by duplicating some of the assigned problems on their tests. If you choose to make homework a part of the final course grade, you need to