Session Six: Grading


1. Give three purposes for grading in an online class. Explain each one and then provide an example or guideline for accomplishing each purpose.

1.    Unlike a f2f class where instructors an see non-verbal cues to assess student comprehension, online teachers must rely more on grading assignments. 

2. You have been called to consult with a university which is about to create a brand new totally online graduate program in leadership education. As part of your consultation you have been asked to provide a short written policy (for the student and instructor handbooks) related to grading policy. List (bullet list) the top five issues your policy will address.

1.    Grading Options:  letter grades, pass/no pass, audit, etc.

2.    Best Practices timeline for grading

3.    Use of Learning Platform’s Grade book

4.    Creating rubrics using course objectives and outcomes

5.    Appealing Grades

3. As part of the consultation with the university on creating an online program you have been asked to create a rubric that can be used across all program classes to grade the online discussions. The idea is to provide a single rubric that is generalized enough to provide a guide for student engagement in the discussion, and for instructors to be able to grade the discussions with a minimum of effort. Students in these classes are all professional educators with a college education. Each class is required to have one discussion each week and the discussion is the only planned method for student-student interaction in the class. It has been decided that discussions will be worth 30 points and this represents 30% of the total points available in the session. The rubric you create must be simple for the instructor to use but specific enough so that students clearly understand what they are to do and why they get the grade they receive.


Points Possible

Points Earned

Made the minimum number of required discussion post by the deadline


Made the minimum number of comments by the deadline


Posting accurately respond to prompt questions


Responses demonstrate synthesis of reading applied to real life understanding


Posts & comments asked questions to facilitate conversation


Posts & comments included links to outside readings




(30% of course grade)


List of Sample Rubrics:

4. Choose a topic that is familiar to you and create three excellent learning objectives. Explain why the objectives you create are excellent.

First off, I think community colleges define Objectives and Outcomes differently, so I’m sharing examples of both; these are course Objectives and Outcomes.  The terms are similar, but not interchangeable.  Objectives are the specific skills that lead to outcomes.  While Objectives tend to be technical language that students may or may not be familiar with, Outcomes are broader more general terms that all students should understand.  It’s important that assignment Objectives be tied to the overall course.  I don’t  that these Objectives and Outcomes are “excellent” but they do give students a clear understanding of the skills they will attain upon successful completion of my Reading & Writing I course.

Student Learning Outcomes:  

1. Demonstrate understanding of academic reading strategies and the paragraph writing process

2. Recognize and use patterns of organization to effectively produce unified coherent paragraphs

3. Read, revise and edit writing

Course Objectives: Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

1.     Apply phonetic, syntactical and contextual strategies to comprehend new vocabulary in readings and to use appropriate vocabulary in writing.

2.     Identify main ideas and supporting details in paragraphs, and the central point of 2 to 3 page readings. Use a dictionary and thesaurus to locate a word’s pronunciation, spelling and meaning to facilitate clarity and fluency in oral reading and writing.

3.     Apply appropriate study strategies such as note taking for student success in reading and writing.

4.     Demonstrate competency in the writing process of prewriting, drafting, revising and editing paragraphs.

5.     Form focused topic sentences with clear topics and controlling ideas.

6.     Form support sentences with major and minor supporting details and conclusion sentences that relate to the topic sentence.

7.     Identify and use appropriate word choice in paragraphs.

8.     Identify and employ transitions and connectors to show unity between ideas.

9.     Identify and use coherence elements such as key nouns and consistent pronouns in paragraphs.

10. Demonstrate the ability to identify and apply basic rules of sentence structure, grammar and punctuation in academic writing.

11. Participate thoughtfully in self and peer review revising and editing processes.

12. Produce several drafts of a paper through a series of revisions using a computer.


5. Describe an eLearning activity that will have students meet one or more of the objectives you just created.


Assignment Narration Paragraph


            For the next two weeks the class will focus on understanding what narration is and how to write in this mode in academic paragraphs. Narration writing tells a story of an event or experience.   There are four basics to good narrating:

  1. It reveals something of importance to you (your main point).
  2. It includes all of the major events of the story (primary support).
  3. It brings the story to life with details about the major events (secondary support).
  4. It presents the events in a clear order, usually according to when and where it happened



What’s Required Where I can read about it
Rhetorical Mode: Narrative

Tell Me a Story

  1. Reals Skills Chapter 10 121-137
  2. Week 3 Reading B.B. “Narrative Writing”

  1. “In Learning to Read” Malcom X overcomes a major challenge of being illiterate by teaching himself to read and write. Being in your first semester of college, you have likely already had to overcome significant obstacles simply to be here at COD. These might be emotional, financial, cultural, geographical, academic, etc. Write a narrative essay describing how you overcame a challenge(s) to become a college student.
B.B. Week 3 Reading:


  1. “Learning to Read” Malcom X
Academic Word List, Sub Group 2:

  1. Complete the Sub-Groups 2 practice. Your score results will automatically be saved to your BB grade book.
  2. Use a minimum of 10 words from the AWL, Subgroup 2 in your paragraph.
B.B. Vocabulary file


  • Follow the Four Basics of Narration
  • Have a clear topic sentence that reveals your main point in an interesting and engaging way.
  • Use time order transitions and organization to introduce the major events of the story.
  • Include descriptive details that describe the events through your eyes; remember who, what, where, when, why, how. Consider sensory details.
  • Write a concluding sentence that brings the story to an end and tells the reader why the experience was important to you.
  • Use a variety of academic vocabulary
  • The paragraph should be 1 ¼-2 pages. Typed double spaced MLA format.
B.B. Week Two Reading:

  1. Paragraph Structure (Review if needed)
Due Dates Assignments
Tuesday 9/2 Post a written or video Journal on Discussion Board week 4-

Describe communication struggles/challenges (oral, aural, written, technical, etc.) you have faced during your first month in school. Write about your feelings and describe your reaction to the events of your story.

*To create video journal- follow directions under BB Materials.

Thursday 9/4 Respond to a minimum of two journal entries on Discussion Board. Offer solutions for overcoming the described communication obstacle.
Thursday 9/9 Pre-writing- Using the Writing Center Pre-writing software-

Create a Cluster/Wed/Map to generate a topic and supporting details for your narrative paragraph. Submit you prewriting to your Success Group’s Discussion Board titled Narrative Assignment

Tuesday 9/9 1st Draft of paragraph due. Submit to COD E- Tutoring-

You will receive Tutoring comments within 48 hours.   Please use these comments to improve your final draft.

Tuesday 9/16 Final Draft of paragraph due. Submit on BB Assignments under Safe Assign- Narrative Paragraph

6. Explain how you will grade the student work in the above activity. For example you may want to provide a rubric or describe other methods used.

1.    Student Self evaluation submitted with Assignment-  

Narrative Paragraph Checklist

Criteria Self-Check Professor Smith’s Check
Title is attention grabbing and clever. Rate A-D? =
The topic sentence tells-

  1. Begins the event of the story, or
  2. Indicates what lesson has been learned, or
  3. Makes a broad statement on a “life lesson”
Which type (a-c)?
A setting has been described telling with whom, where, and when the story takes places. Whom?



The plot has been told in a series of events in chronological order or order of importance. Which organization method?
The story is Cohesive: uses appropriate transition

Words and sentence.

Count the number of transition words:
The conclusion states-

  1. what you learned, or
  2. gives advice, or
  3. makes a prediction or
  4. makes a connection to life lessons
Which type (a-d)?
Rich, colorful, precise language is used, and the choice of the words seems accurate, natural and not forced. Content words have not been repeated more than 3 times. Rate A-D? =
10 words from the Academic Word List 2 have been used and highlighted? YES or NO
A lively voice imparts a personal flavor and interest that is you and shows intense engagement with the topic and your reader. This paragraph “sounds” like my personality? YES or NO

In one adjective describe yourself=

Does the paragraph’s tone match that adjective? YES or NO

This paragraph has been reviewed by a tutor or teacher? How many times did you see a tutor?

How many times did you meet with Professor Smith?

This paragraph has three or less grammar errors per page, so errors will not distract Reader. Rate your certainty?   A-D

Did you read the paragraph out loud to yourself? YES or NO

What grade do you think you will earn on this paragraph? Rate-A-D? =

2.    Instructor evaluation returned with Edited Assignment-  

Narrative Paragraph

Check List & Scoring Guide

Objectives: further development of pre-writing strategies, emphasize organization and structure guidelines for an academic paragraph, present major events of a personal story with relevant and interesting details, use time order organization and transitions.

Part 1: Pre-writing & Drafting                                                 Maximum          Actual


  • Assignment guide brainstorm 10 ____
  • Graphic Organizer 10            ____
  • Topic sentence & Outline 10 ____
  • Draft 1 10 ____
  • Peer review 10 ____

Part 2: Final Draft

Maximum          Actual           

FORMAT (10 points)                                                                                                 Score             

  • MLA formatted header, last name and page # ,

title centered, first line of paragraph indented ,

margins on both sides , text double spaced , space

after punctuation , font size, font type.

PUNCTUATION and MECHANICS (5 points)                          

  • Periods, commas, apostrophes, and quotation marks,
  • capital letters & spelling.                                                             CONTENT (15 points)                         
  • The paragraph clearly tells a story in a way that brings

the story to life for the reader and shows why the

experience was important for the writer.

  • The paragraph is interesting.
  • The paragraph shows that the writer used care and thought.

ORGANIZATION (40 points)                                              

  • topic sentence: introduces the event in an interesting and

engaging way, uses adjectives & adverbs.

  • major events: 3 or more major events of the story listed in

time order, uses appropriate time transitions.

  • minor supporting details: 6 or more detail sentences

that clearly describe the events, relevant to event and topic,

help to bring the event to life for the reader.

  • concluding sentence: brings the story to a logical end,

shows why the experience was important for the writer.

VOCABULARY (10 points)

  • Uses 10+ AWL words subgroup 2
  • Correct word form 10            _____
  • Correct word choice

GRAMMAR and SENTENCE STRUCTURE (20 points)                                                       

  • Subject-verb agreement, word order, sentence structure,

verb tense, parallelism, articles, pronouns, adjective

and adverb use.


Peer-edited by: ____________________ on date:



  Total Possible Actual Score
Part 1


Part 2





7. Explain how you will provide feedback to the student in the above activity. Include an example of your feedback if possible.

The Online Educator’s Complete Guide to Grading Assignments :

1.    Use a Rubric checklist.  Ask students to self-evaluate and turn in their responses when they submit the assignment. Fill out my own rubric to return paper.

2.    Write a narrative on overall impressions and send out in the form of an email with the rubric and paper attached.  *Create a bank of comments, as not to retype the same phrases over and over.

3.    Provide proof-reading editing correction symbols next to mechanical errors directly on assignment.

8. Quote your best entry from this week’s Blackboard discussion. Explain why you chose it and what it demonstrates about your understanding, learning process etc.

I chose this because I think my response describing Safe Assign shows hoe grading in the best case scenario is actually a teaching tool.

This is off topic, but I want to share since it is part of grading- One thing I LOVE is Safe Assign. It’s an option on BB and where students submit their work on SA, and it scans the paper for plagiarism. It highlights the suspected plagiarism and provides a link to the website where the info was copied. It also gives a percentage of how much of the assignment is quoted or plagiarized. Since I have a 25% or less max on quoting in essays, this really helps students see how much of their paper is simply copied and pasted. It even shows me if that student or another student has turned the same paper into another class at my college or another college. Students are blown away by this. In class, I demonstrate a “test” of SA on the first assignment and show the whole class everything I see. We go through examples that show up highlighted as possible plagiarism and we look to see if the info is quoted and cited properly. We also discuss cases where only a couple of words were changed and we discuss why this doesn’t qualify as paraphrasing and is in fact plagiarism. It’s really the best tool I have found to teach citation and paraphrasing! I honestly don’t know why more teachers aren’t using it. It has drastically cut down my students plagiarizing and eliminated their denial when it does happen. The one drawback- it can’t find translated info from foreign websites.

Grading links back to Teacher Presence. My students are always shocked by the amount of comments and editing symbols on their first assignment. I’m often disappointed with colleagues who simply write “good job” on a five page essay and give no explanation for the grade. Part of teaching is giving feedback- both positive and negative. Something I have really worked on this past couple of years is balancing positive feedback, so that it’s not overly negative. Just as we need to know what not to do, it helps to know what we should keep doing well.

9. Identify the student you think was the most important participant in the Blackboard discussion. Explain why and provide at least one quote from that student’s contributions to the Blackboard discussion.

I really appreciate Laura’s comment about allowing students to participate in self assessment and using their rubric responses for part of the points.  I’ll admit that when I head one of my colleagues does this for the full grade, I thought she was nuts, but when Laura described doing it for part of the points, it made it sound like something I want to try.

Rubrics are a tricky thing. I use them all of the time. Last week, just to calibrate, I had a parent, student, and myself complete a rubric for the student’s assignment. The rubric was worth 20 points. The mom and I gave 16 points and the student gave himself 15. We were very close. I love rubrics for helping students evaluate their own work and to give me a point of reference for more objective grading. I find some rubrics that are embedded in our online program too vague sometimes. Other rubrics are too specific and can only be used for one assignment. is a website where you can make rubrics and use ready-made rubrics.

10. Reflect on what you have learned this week. What have you learned that has the potential to inform or influence you or your practice of online learning going forward? Explain why.

This week I was reminded by Laura that grading needs to involve multiple people.  First, there needs to be a grading policy that everyone in the department agrees to.  This is hard but worthwhile because our students need consistent assessment if we are going to accurately scope and sequence skills from one level to the next.  Second, I learned that rubrics are worthwhile.  There have been times where I have felt lazy and didn’t want to spend the extra time filling out my rubric, but I know this helps me look at the students’ work objectively.

Nobody talked about this, but I think it is worth saying that as teachers we need to own up to the occasional error we make when grading.  If a student comes to you and questions a grade, be open to listening and changing the grade.


6 thoughts on “Session Six: Grading

  1. Hi Kristen,
    You hit on several issues that are near and dear to my teacher heart. One, I am a big advocate of developing students’ ability to self-assess, intrinsic motivation, and self-regulation/efficacy. Involving students in the development of rubrics and subsequently using it to evaluate their work, is one way of building those characteristics. I always find it interesting to have several people use the rubric to “grade” and then compare the results. It is almost always very close to my assessment. Often, the student is most demanding of themselves. The other thing about rubrics is, especially when students help write it, it gives specific criteria for what is expected.
    I love your idea for giving points when self-assessed work graded on the rubric is close to mine. I think that motivates students to reflect. I am also going to start putting a column for student comments for each category. I want students to reason as to how they came to their score.
    We have had a lot of technical problems with our plagiarism software, so I have not used it as frequently or effectively as I might have. I like how your use it for teaching students about citations and putting things in their own words. I am going to have to pursue the software issues a little more diligently. I think it can serve the same purpose as a rubric for building independent learner characteristics.


    • I just noticed that the time on my reply was 5:43 PM. It is 9:49 AM. The blog is not recording time accurately. I checked my settings about a week ago and changed them to Pacific time. I wonder if it reverted, or if it is on your end?


  2. Brian

    I noted your observation that outcomes and objectives are sometimes the same, or used differently in different settings. Thanks for the great work in the discussion this week!


  3. Hi Christen,
    Your last paragraph is a great reflection on what grading is and can be. When my sixth grade team scores writing with a rubric, we score the same papers to make sure that we are all on the same page. I also like to have my students grade themselves using a rubric. When I have them do so, I have them highlight the bullets that describe their work. I agree with you that we, as teachers, need to realize that it is possible that we make mistakes when we grade.


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