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How to provide quality assessment for all disciplines

One of the biggest challenges of remote learning has been figuring out how to enable authentic and accurate assessment with integrity when students and instructors weren’t in the same room. In this post, we highlight the ways in which customers used and will continue to use Gradescope to uphold best practices in assessment.

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager

One of the biggest challenges of remote learning has been figuring out how to enable authentic and accurate assessment with integrity when students and instructors weren’t in the same room. While the journey wasn’t without obstacles, many educators discovered resources that support teaching and learning, including the ubiquitous Zoom and other educational technology. The upside is that as we transition back from being fully remote, educators have experience with new resources to navigate the future of assessment across all disciplines.

Assessment has always been a critical intersection where teachers find out what students do and don’t know and where students receive feedback that enables them to continue learning. Upholding and supporting this exchange is critical to both teaching efficacy and student learning outcomes—particularly acute in remote environments where this exchange is a main communication channel (Timms, 2017 p. 327).

But the reality—whether in-person or online—is fraught. There is pressure on instructors to provide timely, actionable, and specific feedback on a stack of essays or large-scale introductory courses with hundreds of enrolled students, even if doing so is best practice. There are only so many hours in a day for this to occur. As a result, it’s tempting to engage in short-cut solutions when it comes to assessment and grading.

Here’s where assessment and grading software like Gradescope can help educators uphold best practices in assessment. Let’s take a closer look at best practices in authentic assessment with integrity and what customers have said about Gradescope.

Provide timely feedback

Formative feedback that is timely, actionable, and specific is the gold standard for increased student learning outcomes. Gradescope’s dynamic rubrics and answer grouping reduce time spent on grading and enable quick adjustments so educators can spend more time teaching. Additionally, feedback flexibility ensures the inclusion of different learning styles.

“Gradescope is rocket fuel for grading. My students love getting feedback just a few hours after their quizzes — a pace I can only achieve with Gradescope.” – Warren Hoburg, Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT

"Just used Gradescope for a midterm exam which had several essay questions. One of the best things about the experience was that I could learn and adjust what & how I wanted to grade each question as I viewed student’s answers and they came up with things I had not anticipated." – J. Patrick McKinzie, Aviation, University of Minnesota-Mankato

Include multiple assessment formats

Each assessment format tests a different component of learning— and offering a variety of formats addresses different student learning styles. Multiple-choice, short answer, long answer, and essay formats measure student learning in different ways. Multiple-choice is often a time-efficient way to assess a larger number of concepts in a shorter amount of time while essays and long-answer questions often provide insight into higher-order thinking and deep understanding of concepts.

As a result, it is important to offer a variety of assessment formats to uphold accurate assessment with integrity.

“My courses are fairly large, more than 150 students, and before Gradescope, once we reached the point we couldn’t grade anymore, we used Scantron sheets. I got fairly good at doing multiple choice exams, but the students hated them. There was no partial credit, some felt they knew more than they could show, others felt lucky because they knew nothing but were still able to get 50 percent. With Gradescope, I was able to get rid of Scantron sheets for nearly all the grading, and really grade their answers and give them the credit they deserve.” – Susanne Hambrusch, CS, Purdue

“I teach a fairly large introductory class (HDFS 201: Introduction to Family Processes) which typically has 70-110 students in a large auditorium. Using Gradescope has allowed me to implement in-class student activities to increase student participation with each other and engagement with the course material. I will ask students to do any number of brief activities (e.g., answer multiple-choice questions, provide a brief reaction to a discussion/video/guest speaker, work with others to brainstorm a solution to a problem) and submit via Gradescope.” – Jessica Lougheed, Human Development and Family Studies, Purdue

Provide frequent, low stakes assessments

With new resources that enable quicker grading while upholding valuable feedback loops, frequent and low-stakes assessments are more accessible than ever. This is a best practice that helps educators gain insights into student learning before summative assessments and helps students understand what it is they’re supposed to learn.

“I primarily used Gradescope for homework assignments, but also for audio recorded presentations that students made about books they were reading pertaining to a topic in forensic science.” – Krystal R. Hans, Entomology, Purdue

“Gradescope allows me to give a short quiz every day in my section of 60 students, and grade them all on my 30-minute train ride home. The students get immediate, custom feedback that helps them understand how they’re doing in the class, and helps me monitor how things are going as well.” – Jesse Tov, Computer Science, Northwestern University

Reduce grading exhaustion and increase fairness

No more shuffling stacks of exams—grade anywhere, anytime while managing uniform grading criteria and upholding fairness across a grading team.

“Gradescope is a game-changer. In large enrollment classes with multiple TAs, it is much easier now to have graders work in parallel grading homework and exams.” – Phill Conrad, Computer Science, UCSB

“Gradescope has helped me and my TAs grade more efficiently—no more grading "parties" and shuffling papers back and forth. My students also appreciate getting their feedback quickly and electronically with a transparent explanation of what they did well and what they could improve.” – Melanie Chiu, Chemistry, SUNY Stonybrook

Uphold integrity

Reducing bias is a critical factor in enabling accurate assessment with integrity. Providing consistent rubrics for students and across graders upholds equity, reduces bias, and increases consistency.

“You can review all grades across the class and decide whether you think the grading has been fair and review everything, make changes, etc., before publishing grades to students.” – Jennie D’ Ambroise, Mathematics, SUNY

“I use Gradescope partly so that I don't see the students' names and only see one question at a time. Sure, sometimes the handwriting looks familiar but it helps me to be as objective as possible.” – Abby Dernburg, Biology, UC Berkeley

“I’ve used Gradescope for exams in constitutional law and political theory. Gradescope has helped improve physical logistics, time management, and fairness in the grading process. In terms of fairness, there are several factors: for one, in large classes, I used to give each TA a set number of exams to grade but now I get TAs to grade specific questions, which makes sure that the grading is uniform; I can monitor grading at any point to calibrate the TAs and at the end, I can quickly adjust for overly difficult questions with the retroactive rubric modifications; finally, I’ll highlight the regrade feature which allows students to get clarification more readily on their grade and petition for legitimate corrections when errors were made.” – Mark Verbitsky, Political Science, UC Davis

Conduct item analysis

Assessments provide insights into student learning. What is it students know and don’t know? Were all the questions on the assessment too easy or too difficult? Is there a particular question every student got wrong? Conducting item analysis by analyzing student responses provides instructors with action items regarding future exam design and teaching efficacy. Gradescope provides per-question and per-rubric item statistics to identify gaps in knowledge and help instructors modify content--and data for administrators to evaluate course trends.

“The best thing is having the scoring details online. This lets us share more with the students. And later, we can analyze how well the questions worked, when we are not in the middle of the grading rush.” – Cliff Shaffer, Computer Science, Virginia Tech

“I use Gradescope to evaluate and improve my exam questions and structure. The Gradescope statistics page shows a breakdown of the average score for each question as well as the percentage of students who were awarded each rubric item for a given question. These statistics help me identify not only questions on which the students struggled but also detailed information on how they struggled, including which components of the question and answer were most difficult or most misunderstood by the students. I use this information to guide how I teach the topics for which students most struggle, and to revise question-wording to more clearly guide students through the expected answer.” – Laci Gerhart-Barley, Ecology, UC Davis

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Gradescope has helped over 1,250 universities and 90,000 instructors cut grading times by up to 80%, increase grading consistency and quality of feedback, and dramatically improve instructor/TA workflows versus traditional grading. Over 400 million questions have been graded through Gradescope. It’s gratifying to see all the incredible work of educators—and to know that whatever the situation, wherever the situation, educators will always engage in best pedagogical practices with the tools to do so.

Despite a turbulent year, we laud educators who have achieved success—and we hope there’s more success to come.