How can we modify the way we grade to reduce student stress and support risk-taking?

Earlier this week, we had an awesome #formativechat about nurturing learners. The following question produced some really interesting responses during the live chat and we’d love to continue chatting with you here:


@informed_members @Certified_Educators

More feedback, fewer grades. In writing, for instance, I support multiple drafts, where students correct their mistakes and polish their writing over time. Showing models of good/average/bad writing samples helps students to realize where they themselves are at the moment and how they can improve. In AP Italian (or any other language) College Board publishes different level samples and explains why a certain student got a 3 vs. a 4 or a 5. The samples can be shown right before students try the same exact practice or right after they have done their first draft, enabling them to grade themselves and to try to go for the higher rating. Often students feel better after seeing other students’ models from around the country, and they are encouraged to do fine tune their skills and do even better.

When giving feedback to a student, I try to word my comments in a positive way, even if sometimes my first reaction would be to point out the mistakes. I would start by finding something good to say about the writing, and take it from there. For instance: “John: you have a good structure, and your ideas are well organized. You are now ready to fine tune your verb tenses by re-reading and changing your verb tenses according to the time frame which you are referring to in your story. Follow my “VT” (verb tense) hints and rewrite one more time. You are almost in the “distinguished” category otherwise.” I found over the years that saying you are now ready seems to make the student feel that s/he has reached a certain level and is ready to move on to the next. Just an idea! :slight_smile:


I use a combination of traditional grading and holistic grading Holistic grading considers the whole students and their growth from assignment to assignment. I wanted to reward those students who arrived in my math class with skills below grade level and also to decrease the number of missing student assignments.

Unit tests are graded traditionally. All of the other activities are grade on completion. I give feedback that is meant to help the student improve. The final grade is determined by the student’s growth from beginning to end. I like to grade these using using a scale that focuses on process and encourages mastery; Advancing, Developing, Not yet!

I also used a combination of the two with weekly open-ended problems on Go Formative. On Monday’s the problem was assigned. They were required to have it completed by Wednesday at the end of the school day. Any student who completed the activity received 5 pts. Students responses were graded on a 4 pt rubric, every student was given feedback regardless of their score, and required to make corrections. Feedback varied for students and assignments. Feedback included instructions video’s, teacher screencasts, songs, links to sites (IXL & www.mathgames) where students could practice and receive feedback. Student’s who scored 4 points were typically ask to reflect on their learning.
On Thursday students reviewed feedback in place of a daily warm-up and given an opportunity to make revisions. Revisions were due by Friday afternoon. The problems were regraded and students received 1 additional point for responding to the feedback.


I conference with my kids before reports, and do more standards based grading, especially in Math. I allow redos or as I call them upgrades, and have what I call “fuzzy due dates”. LIfe is not “one and done” so why should our classroom be that way.

Heard a great talk by Rick Wormeli about this just today.


@Dawn_Frier1 While I agree with your sentiments about the standards-based grading, I find it difficult to reconcile “grades” with administration and parents. I use a system similar to @myersl but still struggle with the balance between subjectivity and objectivity.

Ideally I’d like to measure each student’s growth and their grade reflects their own personal progress. That’s not the system I live in. It’s conflicting.

Any thoughts on how to balance the growth mindset with a fixed grading scale?


I love the idea of showing students exemplars. If students are using them to self-assess they may better understand where their current level/grade is coming from.

I love this wording! I think it helps students see learning as a process rather than positives and negatives!


I like how you build in this time for them to review their feedback before making revisions!


I try my best to only grade the things that I have to - for me, this usually means summative assessments and some formative assessments after students have been given a chance to revise and make adjustments after my feedback. I want to instill in my students to always give their best effort, but also not stress so much when it comes to “showing what you know.”

I love to live score in my classroom. I think that this modification is very beneficial and allows students to get it right, but also learn from their mistakes. I often do this with writing at the beginning of the year to show everyone that they will have room to improve and create a culture of learning from mistakes and always making things better.


I have found making sandwiches with students is a comfortable way to critique and assess. " I really like the way…, something to think about… or explain your decision to…, what if?.."

I really like this phrase - it is empowering.
@myersl I discovered feedback rubrics last year and really like them because they give students a specific target to shoot for and includes feedback. What do you think?

Was it from the #HiveSummit? Because that was super.

Redo Redo Redo to mastery opportunities? At least the option. What do you think?

Building time in for all the steps to mastery is really important. I just started thinking about teacher expectations and student understandings - I think teachers are expecting students to get “it” done but not providing the time, platform or scaffolding.

Doing this gives me time to do the most important things - like interventions and see my family.

Me too - you don’t get grades in life. I feel like we have to help students build the capacity to do their best and allow themselves to not be perfect.

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That’s so awesome that you’ve been able to use the live scoring feature as formative feedback. As you demonstrate, the color-coding for scores can mean anything you want!

True! I think this also frees up more time and headspace to interpret and act on the formative data collected!

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I totally agree. Changing grading to reflect the learning rather than the “facts” is a hard thing. I have changed my grades to a 0-4 scale rather than percentages. Another thing that I have started doing - which was a HUGE change for me, was not deducting points for turning work in late. My students now get two grades for each assignment - an academic grade; which is the grade on the work they have actually completed, and a responsibility grade; which they get based on whether the assignment was turned in on time or not. BTW - I teach 7th grade science.

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I love this idea. A student’s performance on a specific skill/concept is different than their ability to to turn in their assignments on time. I could see this practice preventing students from feeling like they’ll never be able to catch up because they haven’t turned in multiple assignments or from believing that they don’t understand something when really they need to work on submitting it on time. I could also see this being immensely helpful when conferencing with students and parents to see where the true growth areas are and making a plan to address them.

@albertbryant Would it help to reconcile grades with administration and parents if you were able to show evidence of growth on specific standards? You can now click on individual student in the tracker, select a standard, and see a portfolio of all of their responses for it in descending order from oldest to newest (in the side panel):

If you tag your questions to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Levels, you might also be able to demonstrate that students are growing as the questions you ask them become more complex.

Also, @fichtlis shared this response in our live #formativechat, which might also be something to explore:

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