Alternative Grading in the Chemistry Classroom

Submitted by Fiona Lihs on
What is the Purpose of the Assessment?

Traditional grading practices have inherent issues that can undermine learning for many students, so it was decided to try alternative approaches to assessing and grading our classes to see if we could increase student learning.

Describe the necessity for this assessment

Traditional grading systems are highly subjective and internalize instructor biases. These grading systems can increase stress and anxiety in students while reducing cooperative learning, critical thinking, creativity, and motivation.  It is hoped that by adjusting the way grades are assigned, students will focus more on learning material and skills, rather than focusing solely on their grade.

Describe how the practice will be implemented

There are so many different ways of implementing alternative grading, and as a result it can be quite overwhelming.  To start the process we are going to try a few new strategies while maintaining some of our traditional assessments.  It is our hope that as we pilot this process and learn what works and what doesn't we can adjust and adapt as needed.

The initial version will be focusing on summative assessments mainly.  All assessments will have the option to be redone for improved learning.  Students will be assessed on three components, in-class quizzes, lab participation and reports, and unit exams.  Quizzes and exams will both have the opportunity for one reassessment attempt, lab reports can be submitted as many times as necessary.

Interpret, compare, and describe the results

Initial results are favorable, however we need to look at actual success rates over our courses, plus analyze pre/post test data, to see if we can see actual improvement in student learning as a result of this change.

After analyzing, and reflecting on the outcome, what are the next steps?

Much work still needs to be done.  Summer 2024 we are hoping to evaluate the successes and failures of this change and makes decisions for the future of alternative grading in the chemistry discipline.


Traditional classroom level assessments does not always perform the way instructors intend it to, as it is highly subjective and internalize instructor biases. Traditional grading systems pit students and instructors against each other by making grades a commodity that students must negotiate with the instructor, instead of building trusting relationships that allow for students to learn from their mistakes, take risks, and be creative. Additionally, these grading systems can increase stress and anxiety in students while reducing cooperative learning, critical thinking, creativity, and motivation.  Alternative grading tends to provide students with more clarity on how to reach their learning and grade goals.  By focusing more on frequent and detailed feedback than the grade, students are encouraged to participate more in their learning, rather than just chasing a grade. It benefits students with less experience or acceptance in educational systems such as first-generation students and students of color.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
CHM 151
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