Creating a Grade Distribution Plan

Overview

Before finalizing a course syllabus and its Gradebook, you may find it helpful to map out the anticipated grading structure for the course. Doing this allows you to:

  • Confirm that points are distributed appropriately across minor and major assignments,

  • Distribute grades throughout the semester so students have feedback regarding their progress early on, and

  • Estimate the potential grading load for the instructor.

For a different breakdown of grades, you may also consider creating a Grade Values and Percentages table to determine how points in a course are allocated across the various assignment types.

How to Create a Grade Distribution Plan

A Grade Distribution Plan may take any format desired. A spreadsheet or table provides advantages for calculations, but a simple list works fine, too. Not all of the following items are necessary. Capture the information that works best for you and your needs.

  1. List Assignments. Include all of the items that students will submit in your course, even those that will not have points attached to them. For example, a draft submission may require review and feedback even if it does not have points associated with it. 

  2. Order or Group Assignments by Module/Week. 

  3. Identify Grading Mode. Will assignments be graded automatically, such as a Canvas Quiz? Will the assignment require instructor grading? Is the assignment simply marked as complete or incomplete?

  4. Attach Points. For each assignment, list the potential points earned by the submission.

  5. Identify Grading Units. For each assignment, identify the number of grading units expected. That is, will the assignment be submitted by each individual student? Or, will the assignment be a group submission? A course with 30 students split into groups of 5 students for a team assignment will have just 6 units to grade.

  6. Estimate Grading Time. How long do you anticipate it will take to grade each submission? For example, an automatically graded quiz may take no time, but a group project submission may take 30 minutes each to review, assign points, and provide feedback.

  7. Calculate the Grading Time. Multiply the grading time by the number of grading units to identify the total time estimated to grade an assignment. For example, an instructor who needs to grade an assignment with a 30-minute grading time and 25 submissions needs an estimated 750 minutes for grading, or 12.5 hours.

  8. Evaluate and Make Adjustments. Review the information collected in the steps above. Make adjustments as needed to create a grading plan that is useful for both the students and the instructor. Consider these points as you review:

    1. Students will work harder for 20% than they will for 2%. 

    2. For cumulative grading, ensure that the total of summative assessment(s) is sufficient such that students can’t pass if they fail the final assessment.

    3. How much of the grade should be assigned for discussions? You may be assessing the achievement of the same objectives being discussed through other grading components.

    4. Is passing a final exam a requirement of passing the course?

    5. Which components of the course demonstrate attainment of the most important objectives? Does this importance align with grade allocations?

    6. What is the best grade one could earn without knowing much in the course?

    7. Knowing that interactions are important for achievement, what is the best grade a student can earn without interacting with other students or participating in discussion?

Example

This sample grade distribution table includes all the elements shown above. Remember that this is an example, only - you don’t have to create such a detailed table if you don’t find it helpful.

Week

Assignment

Points

Method

Units

Estimated Time per Unit

Total Grading Time Estimate (Minutes)

Week

Assignment

Points

Method

Units

Estimated Time per Unit

Total Grading Time Estimate (Minutes)

1

Course Syllabus and Syllabus Quiz

5

Automated

30

0

0

Flip Introductions

15

Instructor graded

30

2

60

Discussion 1

20

Instructor graded

30

5

150

Reading Quiz

10

Automated

30

0

0

Reflection Assignment

10

Instructor graded

30

10

300

2

Discussion 2

20

Instructor graded

30

5

150

Reading Quiz

10

Instructor graded

30

0

0

Team Project Scope Assignment

30

Instructor graded

6

20

120

3

Discussion 3

20

Instructor graded

30

5

150

Reading Quiz

10

Automated

30

0

0

Reflection Assignment

10

Instructor graded

30

15

450

4

Discussion 4

20

Instructor graded

30

5

150

Reading Quiz

10

Automated

30

0

0

Team Project Draft

50

Instructor graded

6

30

180

Individual Peer Reviews of Drafts (2 reviews per person)

50

Instructor graded

30

10

300

5

Discussion 5

20

Instructor graded

30

5

150

Reading Quiz

10

Automated

30

0

0

Reflection Assignment

10

Instructor graded

30

15

450

6

Discussion 6

20

Instructor graded

30

5

150

Reading Quiz

10

Automated

30

0

0

Team Project Final Submission

200

Instructor graded

6

30

180

7

Discussion 7

20

Instructor graded

30

5

150

Reading Quiz

10

Automated

30

0

0

Team Project Presentations

150

Instructor

6

30

180

Peer Feedback on Presentations

50

Instructor graded

30

15

450

Final Reflection

10

Instructor graded

30

10

300

Total

-

800

-

-

-

-

 


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