Why I Love Grading with a 4-Point, Competency-Based Scale

I hear teachers say that they don’t want to change to standards-based or competency-based grading because it’s easier to keep doing what they’ve always done. Competency-based grading has simplified my grading process in a way that saves me hours of work! I never have to count points—a point for this, 2 points for that, ½ point off for “this one little thing missing.” Competency-based grading isn’t really about the points; it’s about the student’s ability to show what they know and what they can do. I can see competency very quickly when I am using a rubric. Often a quick glance is enough to give me the information I am looking for, especially if the assignment is visual. If the work is research-based and designed to show critical thinking and use of relevant sources, I spend more time on grading, but competency-based grading is still faster than adding up individual points for each little thing.

Students also know what to expect with competency-based grading because I try to be specific with a rubric. If they don’t score 4 points on the first try, I give them feedback offering them an opportunity to improve their work.

Let’s take the example with the following objective from FCS Exploration:

I can effectively use fashion as a means of expression (Strand 3, Standard 4).

The assignment itself looks like the one below. Although my own fashion drawings lack the seemingly effortless style and movement of professional design drawings, I love to draw clothing, and I can capture clothing construction details, so I feel these drawings are a helpful guide when students are unfamiliar with design drawings.

“Fashion as Communication and Expression” Canvas Assignment

After explaining the assignment to the class, I point out the rubric and go over the rubric with them so that they know exactly what to expect.

As the students submit their work, I give them feedback based on the rubric, so that they always have the opportunity to improve.

Here are four samples of student work matching the scores of 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the rubric.

This student had a good start–but the work is only that–a start.

The second assignment sample is rushed and low in quality. However, the student did make effort to include at least some design details that show personality.

This student work shows an understanding of fashion as expression while still lacking professional detail.

The final sample shows high-quality, professional details with accessories, closures, movement, etc. This student has clearly mastered the idea of fashion as expression.

Is there a way that you could simplify your teaching practice by using a 4-point, competency-based grading scale?

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