Using standards-based grading to effectively assess project-based design courses

Sara A. Atwood, Elizabethtown College
Matthew T. Siniawski, Loyola Marymount University
Adam R. Carberry, Arizona State University


Standards-based grading (SBG) is an alternative to traditional score-based grading systems that allows an instructor to provide assessment linked to course objectives. SBG ties assessment throughout a course with these objectives, while also providing clear, meaningful feedback, fairness and transparency in the grading process, and useful program assessment. Project-based design courses align well with SBG because their nature demands repeat assessment of fundamental learning objectives. The following study investigated the use of SBG in two cornerstone design courses with similar learning objectives at different ABET accredited engineering programs. Overall, students reported that the standards based grading system has higher value (2.94 + 0.87) than cost (2.03 + 0.78) on a 4-point scale (p <0.001). Students at the small, liberal arts college responded with generally higher ratings for both value and cost, with a larger average difference between combined value and cost (1.0 and 0.81, respectively), than students at a large, public university. Additionally, students reported higher self-efficacy in design-based objectives after the course, with an average self-efficacy increase of 15-20 points on a 100-point scale. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2014.