How might digital tools help change how students are graded?

We need to change how we grade students

The idea behind grading is thought to have originated from Yale. Their first grading system used “a series of descriptive adjectives, and later with a numerical scale of 1 to 4” (Lahey). “In 1897, Mount Holyoke College adopted the familiar system of A-D and F for grading students” (Lahey). Not only have these grading systems been developed to distinguish between students easily, the grading system that many schools and learning management systems use is over 100 years old!

Mastery-based grading, as opposed to numerical or letter grades, give students and teachers the information they need to accurately assess what students know and what they need to work on to improve. English teacher Jessica Lahey has written that since the goal of all education is mastery, students ought to “maintain a focus on the process of learning rather than the destination of a grade” and mastery-based grading does that (Lahey). Instead of being given a letter grade that makes it hard to understand how much a student actually knows, a grade such as “proficient” or “partially proficient” better shows the progress a student has made on a specific objective.

But how do we show the progress a student has made in their classes if they’re not getting alphanumeric grades?

Standards-based grading

Instead of giving students one grade, either on an assignment or for the class in general, standards-based grading systems allow for that grade to be split up by “learning objective” (sometimes referred to as “standard,” “competency,” or “skill”). Such a system allows students to know exactly what they need to improve in a class or on an assignment and gives more context to a student’s grade.

Mastery-based grading

Instead of showing traditional letter or numerical grades on a report/transcript, mastery-based grading systems focus on showing the progress students have made. One example, illustrated on the right, is a system with four mastery levels: “met,” “approaching,” “beginning,” and “no credit.” In such a system, students are graded just on those four levels, based on how well they’ve met the expectations of that class and/or its learning objectives.

When used in conjunction with standards-based grading systems, grades become much less subjective and more insightful for students. This allows students to take more ownership over their learning and allows them to see exactly what they need to do to improve their grades.

But won’t you need to change digital systems and high school transcripts to use these systems to their fullest potential?

That’s where Shoosh comes in, an LMS that is built around these new, untraditional grading systems. With Shoosh, students and teachers will be able to easily keep track of their progress on the learning objectives (LOs) of their classes without using alphanumeric grading systems. Shoosh will also encourage collaboration and self-reflection with features such as an integrated project dashboard that makes it easy to collaborate on projects with classmates and through self-assessments on assignment rubrics after a student submits work.

The prototype is unfinished—pages are continuously being updated (you will always see the most up-to-date version with the above link). If you notice any bugs, note them in the survey below—however, some “bugs” are actually intentional as some options aren’t clickable/functioning yet.

A student’s class grade book
What is the Mastery Transcript?

The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) is building a high school transcript that is based on interdisciplinary “credits” in skill areas that students will exemplify throughout their high school careers. Credits will be supported on the transcript by the student’s work.

Mastery Transcript prototype

The Mastery Transcript not only allows students to get credit on their transcript for extracurricular activities and applications of what they learn in high school classrooms, but college admissions officers will be able to see students’ evidence for credits.

Learn more about the Mastery Transcript >

How does Shoosh integrate with the Mastery Transcript?
Mastery page on Shoosh

I’m working with the MTC to make it easier for students to keep track of the credits that they have received credit for already and which they are working in. The Mastery page on Shoosh allows students to keep track of the credits/skills they’re hoping to achieve by the end of high school, as well as link evidence directly from the learning management system to their Mastery Transcript. By using machine learning, Shoosh will also allow students to take ownership over their education by suggesting credits, classes, and evidence students should add or take based on historical data from their school and other schools.

See the business model for Shoosh:

Share this project
  1. April 26, 2020 by Eric Hudson

    Ozzy, Shoosh is exactly the kind of product schools are looking for to fill the gap between the Mastery Transcript and the day-to-day work of mastery learning. Awesome idea, and I’m rooting for you.

    • April 26, 2020 by Ozzy

      Thank you, Eric!

  2. April 27, 2020 by Marc Alongi

    Please build Shoosh!

  3. April 27, 2020 by Ella McDonald

    As a student that attends a very traditional school that at times seems to circulate solely around success in the most traditional grade-oriented way, this program is beyond appealing. We go to school to learn and often this core idea of true education is forgotten in the face of GPA’s.

    • April 27, 2020 by Ozzy

      Thank you, Ella! That’s definitely the goal: to shift the motivation of students in school (and schools, for that matter) from GPAs to actually learning. I know Poly is a Mastery Transcript school, so I hope one day they can use Shoosh (or something like it)!

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