What should I release to students: grades or marks?

The grades vs. marks battle is a hot topic. Some unit convenors only release grades (e.g. Credit), as they find it challenging to assign a numeric mark (why 67, and not 68 for example?). Others opt for releasing marks. But what does the new Assessment policy require?

What does the new Assessment Policy require us to do?

Convenors can release either grades or marks for individual assignments. However, final unit results should be returned as a mark.When grades are released, the terminology needs to be consistent with Macquarie Grading Policy. For example, the top grade should be referred to as ‘High Distinction’, rather than ‘Excellent’ , ‘Highly Competent’  or ‘Super-Giga-Awesome’.

So since we can release both (grades and marks) for individual assignments, which is better? Are there any advantages of grades over marks? Or marks over grades?

choice 1Advantages of releasing ‘grades’

Assigning a general category ‘high distinction’ or ‘distinction’ might be easier for some convenors and markers, and students may be less likely to question a grade than a specific mark – ‘why 67 and not 68?’ is a very different question to ‘why a Credit and not a Distinction?’.

At the same time, there are risks in not releasing marks to students.

choice 2Advantages of releasing ‘marks’

Not all grades are equal. For example, Mary may have  just made it over the line and got a ‘Credit’ rather than a ‘Pass’, while Pete’s assignment was much stronger, but it fell short of ‘Distinction’. While their ‘grades’ are the same (Credit), the quality of their work is different. It is therefore completely plausible that Mary might get a lower unit grade than Pete, even if their assignment grades seemed similar. It is also possible that Mary may get disappointed and even dispute the grade, which brings unnecessary stress for Mary and other people involved. That’s why releasing marks rather than grades might help to avoid disappointment or appeals.

Also, since convenors have to release marks at the end of the session, it may be more transparent to assign and release marks.

scalesDifferent levels of difficulty

Not all assessment tasks are of equal difficulty. Some are easier, while others could be more challenging. Under the new Assessment Policy, convenors do not have to release the ‘raw’ marks and can adjust marks. For example, in some cases a passing grade might be 80% of the questions in a quiz, so ‘80%’ of the correct answers would earn a student ‘50 out of 100’ possible marks. It is therefore acceptable to adjust marking requirements for individual assessments, as long as these requirements are made clear to students. Note: this can only be done for individual assessments, not the final results for the unit.

crystal clearClear standards

Whether you release grades or marks, the result needs to align with the standards that you provided to students for that piece of assessment. This does depend on clear and comprehensive communication, as required by the new Assessment Policy.

For more information on the Assessment policy, see Your Questions Answered: Macquarie’s New Assessment Policy andAssessment Policy: 4 changes you need to know about