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Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  64 ratings  ·  13 reviews
In her latest book Linda Nilson puts forward an innovative but practical and tested approach to grading that can demonstrably raise academic standards, motivate students, tie their achievement of learning outcomes to their course grades, save faculty time and stress, and provide the reliable gauge of student learning that the public and employers are looking for.

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Paperback, 184 pages
Published October 22nd 2014 by Stylus Publishing (VA)
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4.05  · 
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 ·  64 ratings  ·  13 reviews

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Mackenzie Brooks
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Totally doing this.
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it

The book got redundant at places, but that’s probably necessary to get educators to really consider such a unique way of designing a class. I’m really excited to give this a try this semester!

Lance Eaton
Nilson lays out a different approach to grading than what I have been doing most of my teaching career. She explains to readers the benefits and methods of developing specifications grading. Instead of grading along a continuum that doesn't necessarily capture or clarify what the student is able to do at the end of the course, she shows different ways in which you can create assessments that are clearly specified and graded on a complete/did not complete basis. It is--as most things--more diffi ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Let me preface that I have some experience with the topic so hopefully my comments are not too skewed by that....
I really appreciated this work, because Nilson does a great job breaking down Specs Grading step by step. She provides mostly sound arguments, her reference list is extensive, and I appreciate that she utilized (and cited) many personal communications. Not only does she clearly define the rules and pitfalls of this method, she also provides explicit details on how to develop courses t
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I first heard about specs grading in Nilson's book Creating Self-Regulated Learners and was intrigued by its application. For the past year I've dabbled with it in my courses and thought this book would give me insights into the grading system I knew very little about. It was indeed informative, but it was also repetitive, and it seemed to brush over some of the concerns both students and faculty have about the system. I wish it had included more research to justify its use as well as more concr ...more
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a stimulating read on something I had not researched. I got a lot of ideas for implementation but I do wonder about institutional consequences: the author makes no bones that this is about increasing rigor. If one faculty uses this system, won't students run to the "easy" sections where one can scrap enough partial credit to get by. Nevertheless, this book will get you to reconsider your entire grading schemes and assignments. As I said, very stimulating.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mackenzie gave this to me for my birthday a million years ago and I put off reading it because the title was so dry. But this gave me SO much to think about and I am seriously considering implementing it for one or both of my fall classes.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now, to try and figure out how to incorporate this into my classes....
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting. I look forward to seeing how my faculty implement this approach.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Appreciated the examples given.
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This will change how I teach! In planning now for teaching statistics this fall. I see how I might use this in all of my courses.

This was a great book. Full of practical ideas to make this grading method work for your discipline, your course, your teaching style.

I used in a small class of students, so not the best sample size. It was clear what I was looking for and students went above expectations. I saw them moving away from doing the minimum to get the grade to stretching themselves to try h
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I think this book may change my teaching life. Grading has always been the worst part of teaching ... and the most time-consuming, least satisfying part. This book lays out the rationale and strategy for redesigning grading that (should) increase the motivation and performance of students in a context of increased autonomy and choice. It seems that the inherent transparency (and consistent application) of specs grading is key. I look forward to experimenting with it this quarter.
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pedagogy
Thin but extremely useful. Helped me streamline my grading process while providing solid rationale for doing so. Lots of examples and models.
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