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Redesigning Your Courses for Alternative Grading: A Synchronous 4-Day Course for Higher Ed Instructors

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Are you interested in alternative grading practices such as Standards-Based, Specifications, Mastery, or Ungrading? Are you ready to dive into changing your course to focus on learning? If so, this course is for you.

In Redesigning Your Courses for Alternative Grading, participants will design a student success-centered grading system that promotes and accurately reflects student learning through eventual mastery.

This 4-day, 30 hour, intensive training course is a boot-camp style experience to quickly equip instructors with the research, tools, and time to implement a more effective grading system. Participants will learn a variety of alternative grading components, including how to break course content into assessable learning targets, options for allowing students to demonstrate learning, and how the productive struggle and the opportunity for revision of student work supports learning and reduces inequity. This course content was developed by Sharona Krinsky and Robert Bosley through generous support of the National Science Foundation programs: Improving Undergraduate STEM Education and CLIMB Grant.

Why Redesign?

Redesigning courses through grading practices is a key entry point for instructional change as grading practices sit at the unique intersection of instructor and student need.

From a teaching and learning perspective, the validity and use of grades in the American Higher Educational System have been brought into question for the better part of the last three decades. Alternative grading practices have shown success in validating grades and presenting fairer measures of student learning.

Research also suggests that switching to an alternative grading practice reduces inequity in classes. Any course redesign effort, especially focused on grading practices, benefits from a structured implementation cycle.


This program is an intensive, approximately 30 hour, 4-day long experience, facilitated synchronously, fully online. 

Projects & Impact


In this course, you will learn to:

  • Evaluate the key elements of alternative grading systems and their advantages over traditional grading systems.
  • Create or revise assessable learning targets for learning-based grading in your course.
  • Develop a mastery grading plan for your course.
  • Use mastery grading to promote learning and growth with students and other stakeholders.

About the Course Designers

Sharona Krinsky is a faculty member in the Mathematics department at California State University. She has over 30 years of experience in the mathematics classroom, has worked with dozens of faculty on course redesign, is an organizer of The Grading Conference (now in its third year), and is currently a co-PI and faculty trainer on the NSF IUSE funded CLIMB grant to redesign sophomore-level engineering classes to use Mastery Grading.

Robert Bosley is a faculty member in the Mathematics department at California State University Los Angeles as well as the intervention support coordinator at Santee Education Complex, a grades 9-12 high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In addition to over 17 years of classroom experience at both the grades 9-12 and Higher Ed levels, Bosley is a certified Mastery Grading trainer, organizer of The Grading Conference, and has over a decade of experience working with faculty at all levels on course redesign.

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Course Overview

Participants review key literature around the philosophy of mastery grading and then reflect upon those ideas as they relate to their own course. Through guided discussions and literature to practice sessions, participants begin to ask the deep questions about what learning is and looks like for their course; as well as, focusing on the larger components of a single course they teach.

Professional Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

  • Define the core principles of what mastery grading means.
  • Describe why traditional grading is iniquitous or needs to be changed.
  • Evaluate the fundamental building blocks of my course to redesign it.

Participants review the literature around learning targets and then their learning objectives, or targets, to define learning in their course. Doing this will let instructors work through the best practices of backwards design and review the key ideas around measuring learning and defining rubrics.

Professional Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

  • Identify appropriately written, assessable, and student facing learning objectives.
  • Revise a learning objective to be appropriately written, assessable, and student facing.
  • Map a rubric(s) to evaluate for learning level of a student.

Participants will examine how to incorporate the philosophy of mastery grading, into the components of their course and grading system and begin aligning their targets to their assessments and assignments. By reviewing the ideas of evaluation, measurable learning, and reassessment, participants will have an opportunity to follow a guided discussion around practice for their classrooms. 

Professional Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

  • Convert the mastery of learning standards into a final grade.
  • Evaluate when and how to quantify the comprehension of learning standards.
  • Evaluate the appropriate level of complexity to a learning-based grading architecture.
  • Evaluate appropriate assessments/assignments that demonstrate mastery of learning standards.
  • Design or redesign assessments/assignments that align and measure mastery of learning standards.

Participants will grapple with the elusive practice of giving learning centered feedback. Participants will also establish their game-plan to review and finish redesigning their course, by focusing on an inventory of what they have and what their goals are. Participants will make their own or shared plans as needed in this module. 

Professional Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

  • Give learning centered feedback on assignments/assessments.
  • Show students how to use feedback in their learning.
  • Build feedback/reassessment time into my courses.
  • Communicate the grading practices of my course with all students and stakeholders.
  • Plan for cycles of iteration in their course practice and design.

Summer Session 2022: Monday, July 25 to Thursday, July 28, 8:00 am to 2:00 pm PDT. 


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