Best practices for using standards-based grading in engineering courses

Adam R. Carberry, Arizona State University
Matthew Siniawski, Loyola Marymount University
Sara A. Atwood, Elizabethtown College
Heidi A. Diefes-Dux, Purdue University


Assessment of student achievement using a grading system is a major task required of engineering educators. The traditional approach is to use a summative score-based grading system that reports an end-of-semester letter grade based on student assignment scores throughout the course. Such an approach inherently fails to meet the conditions of sound assessment of student learning because the resulting final course grades only display how well students performed at completing separate assignments rather than how well they learned specific course objectives. Standards-based grading (SBG) is an alternative approach that directly measures the quality of students' proficiency toward course learning objectives. The following paper assessed the use of standards-based grading by ten instructors at six institutions to identify instructor perceived benefits for students, obstacles to implementation, and best practices for integration.