Teaching Philosophy 45 (1):23-64 (2022)

Points-based grading, though now traditional, faces powerful critiques: Such grading creates a low road to passing, it undermines motivation, it wastes time, and it causes stress. It creates an illusion of mathematical precision. It is unfriendly to necessary conditions for satisfactory performance. This paper defends the alternative of specifications grading. Specifications grading grades only on whether work meets a set of expectations for satisfactory performance, with the expectations set at a high but reachable level. With a high bar also comes opportunities to revise unsatisfactory work. I summarize arguments from the literature in support of the system, but I also give account of my two-year experiment in philosophy courses with specifications grading. Compared with points-based grading, specifications grading appears to motivate students better and helps them learn more. I consider objections from both traditionalists and so-called ‘ungraders.’ The former hope to secure the benefits of specifications grading while still keeping points. The latter favor eliminating grading altogether.
Keywords Teaching Philosophy
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DOI 10.5840/teachphil20211118154
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