Contract Grading

BLOGS. The final frontier. These are the journals of fellow student, John Arsenault. An eight week journey of exploration to seek out new technologies for applications to the Adult Learner. To boldly go where most teenagers have gone before.

On a more serious note, although I have taken a few courses where this method of grading was offered, I have to admit that I never really put too much thought into the process until now. All I knew was that this method was very appealing to me, because it meant I could negotiate for the grade which was acceptable to me and allowed me more time to focus on my own teaching obligations.

As with everything else, there are pros and cons to any grading system we use. James B Wehrley listed a few advantages in his article ” Contract-Based Grading: Innovation In the Classroom Through Creative Grading ” to using this method of grading. He included student ownership, flexibility for students, a positive attitude towards the course or teacher and the elimination of late work or make up work, as a few advantages. I would tend to agree that these are all possible positive outcomes, however, as I try to imagine how my learners in the trades would respond to this method of grading, I am not totally convinced that I would see much improvement in their grades. Contrarily, I think for a few, if not the majority, their grades would actually decrease because they would undoubtedly take the easy way out and do the bare minimum.

Having said that, individuals which are motivated to excel, as is the case, I believe, with most adult learners, these points would probably encourage motivation and increase interest in learning.

There are a number of disadvantages also suggested in Wehrley’s article. One which was actually surprising to me at first, which after thinking about it a little is not so surprising, is the increased administration burden to the instructor. I thought that implementing this system should have actually made it easier for the instructor because he would already know what the student was expecting for a final grade anyway. However, the negotiation of contracts for each student, monitoring their progress and keeping track of each individual agreement would require great organizational skills and discipline and gets harder as the class size increases.

As I mentioned earlier, I like this system for myself as a student  and therefore I will definitely explore any opportunities to implement it in my own classroom and see how my learners perform.




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7 thoughts on “Contract Grading

  1. “Great insights” John, but I don’t know if a learning contract would be an asset or a detriment to trades people. I feel the desire to learn depends on an individual basis no matter if your a aspiring trades person or a University student.

    • I would agree with you on this point for sure. Perhaps its the fact that these are high school students and maybe they are not really in this class because they have a passion for the trades but rather because its an easy class compared to the core subjects.

  2. I,m impressed that you have an interesting source to quote from (in this blog) in Mr. Wehrley. This means to me that you took the initive to research the subject before spewing( no disrespect meant) .
    I am also impressed by the information that you shared in that there are pros and cons to this grading system.
    I am still on the fence as to whether it is something that will benefit the learner. I feel that having a direction and outcome is more fulfilling in my learning precess but that is not to say this will not work. I just am from the old school and am use to a different format.
    I took the exercise as a personal refection on the subject of grading contract ( which probably said a ton about me as an individual!) but I found that you looked at the exercise as something bigger then personal and more a reflection on your profession as an educator. This is an important thought as it give one a better perception from another point of view.

    I would also agree with Jen in that your opening paragraph for your blog was a catcher! Well done!

  3. Good points John. I believe adult learners are more interested in learning and not in “slacking off” so they may actually benefit from a contract grading system. I believe it could be an incentive to new learners of English, which is the area of adult learning that I hope to pursue. I am certainly an adult learner myself, but am a bit loath to change to this method of grading for myself.

  4. A good example of how a catchy start to a blog can bring lots of comments :)

    I can guarantee you that it is more draining on an instructor if not more actual work. Trying to work out what is going to work for different people is challenging, and leaves me open to a fair amount of resistance. I don’t happen to mind a little resistance, but if you’re someone who doesn’t like confrontation, this kind of grading can get you into trouble.

    The trades case is an interesting one. I think that at some point, we all learn individually. I would love to explore this idea further :)

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