From Instructional Goals to Grading Practices: The Case of Graduate Teaching Assistants
KeywordsPhysics - Physics Education
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AbstractGrading shapes students' learning, and above all, students' approaches to problem solving. In particular, grading can encourage expert-like problem-solving. Teaching assistants (TAs) are often responsible for grading student solutions, thus, their perceptions of grading are central in determining grading practices in the physics classroom. Studying TAs' perceptions of grading is instrumental for curriculum developers as well as professional development leaders interested in improving grading practices. In order to identify TAs' perceptions of grading, we used a data collection tool designed to bring to light TAs' considerations when making grading decisions as well as possible conflicts between their stated goals and actual grading practices. In particular, the tool was devised to explicate TAs' attitudes towards research-based grading practices intended to promote expert-like problem solving approaches. TAs were first asked to state their goals for grading in general. Then, TAs graded student solutions in a simulated setting while explicating and discussing underlying considerations. The data collection tool was administered before TAs entered their teaching appointment and after one semester of teaching experience. We found that almost all of the TAs stated that the purpose of grading was formative, i.e., grading should encourage students to learn from their mistakes as well as inform the instructor of common student difficulties. However, when making grading decisions in a simulated setting, the majority of TAs' grading considerations focused on correctness and did not encourage expert-like approaches. TAs' perceptions of grading did not change significantly during one semester of teaching experience.