Design & Pedagogical Value of a Standards-based Grading System for Undergraduate STEM Education
Matt Siniawski, Mechanical Engineering
John Dionisio, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Most science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) higher education instructors utilize summative score-based grading systems to assess student performance. However, these traditional systems typically do not directly assess student development towards achieving course objectives. Standards-based grading is an alternative approach to assessment of student performance and learning. It involves the direct measurement of student development towards achieving specific course objectives. Student Development is tracked throughout the duration of a course using a standards development report rather than assigning one-time individual scores to student assignments. Final course grades are then determined based on their overall development towards achieving course outcomes. One of the major benefits of standards-based grading is that it provides clear, meaningful and personalized feedback for both students and educators regarding student learning. Although it has gained popularity at the K-12 level, there have been no studies to date that analyze the effects of standards-based grading on undergraduate STEM education. Pilot studies were conducted in multiple STEM courses to assess the pedagogical value of standards-based grading and its impact on student cognitive and affective behaviors. Affective behavior was measured by assessing changes in students' self-efficacy and the value they place on standards-based grading. Cognitive behavior was measured by assessing students' epistemological beliefs of STEM knowledge. These studies of standards-based grading suggest that standards-based grading can have a beneficial effect on STEM higher education, but may have varying value based on the particular type of course.