## Mastery Learning – Grading System

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I have started using a mastery learning based grading system in my developmental math courses.

### Tests

I give 6 tests in each course.
These tests are worth 0 points if the student scores below 70% or 1 point if the student scores 70% or higher.
If a student has satisfactory online scores (90% or higher on each exam and 70% or higher on each quiz) then they can earn bonuses on their test score. In that case, a student earns 2 points for a test between 70% & 79% and 3 points for a test that is 80% or higher.
A student who earns 0 points on a test but has satisfactory online scores earns the option to retake the test the following week for 1 point.

Take note that the online scores do not directly count to a student’s overall grade in any fashion.

There are 6 tests, so a student can earn up to 18 points from their tests.

### Bonus

For one exam (the one that students historically struggle with) I double the points for students with satisfactory online scores. That means that there are an additional 3 points up for grabs here.

### Review

I have a 34 question review quiz associated with a 136 question personalized homework assignment that serves as a review for the final exam. Students who score above 90% on the homework and 70% on the quiz earn 4 points to their total.

### Final Exam

The final exam is worth 100 points.

There are 125 points available in my course. Students need 100 points for an A, 88 points for a B, and 76 points for a C. I set up the C grade by reasoning that a student who did not do the online homework but managed to pass all 6 exams and the final exam should pass the class: 6 x 1 + 70 = 76. I then escalated the grades from there.

### Last Semester

Last semester I started with 47 students, and managed to keep 46 of them. 28 of the 46 passed (61%), with 15 of those grades being A’s. The pass rate at my college is in the mid 40’s for reference.

My students took a common final with four other classes, and the grading was shared between instructors. (I graded problems 1-7, another instructor graded 8-13, …). Students in my class had a mean score that was 12.5 points above the other classes, and the median was 14 points higher. 65% of my students scores 60 or higher (control: 37%), and 35% of my students scored 80 or higher (control: 7%). This shows that my students understood the material at a higher level than those not participating in the mastery learning approach.

In the next blog I will talk about some of the game design elements that really help make this work.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.

Hi George.
Are you still using this system? If so for what courses, and how do you think it is working? Have you used it for a class that doesn’t have an on-line component?

• 2. georgewoodbury  |  July 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I have used this grading system for 4 semesters now. Things are going really well – success rates are still high and my students are outperforming other classes on our common final exams.
I have not used this setup without an online component, but I do not see why that could not be done. You just have to find a way to tailor it to what you do in your class, and what you value.
George