W09: Implementing Specifications Grading in a Statistics Course

With Eric Reyes (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology)


In her book “Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time” Linda Nilson makes a case that the current grading systems used throughout academia are flawed and actually motivate students to produce unsatisfactory work. She then introduces what she calls specifications grading as a solution. The system grades students pass/fail on assessments which are tied directly to course objectives. The system promises to reduce faculty workloads and improve student mastery of the topics, but there are details in the execution that are not resolved fully. This workshop introduces specifications grading and tackles some of these unresolved issues with implementation in a statistics course. By the end of the workshop, participants will:

  • be able to articulate the flaws in our current grading systems and the claimed benefits of specifications grading,
  • be able to state the primary components of the framework,
  • have written specifications for at least one assessment item and
  • have made significant progress on constructing a syllabus for a course in which they hope to implement specifications grading.

In addition, it is my hope that participants will have constructed a network of colleagues for continuing the conversation regarding obstacles when applying this framework in our classrooms and approaches to overcoming them.