March 14, 2020

Canvas Tips: Gradebook Declarations

Gradebook Declarations is a system that I use where students declare their completed work in Canvas; the same system works in any LMS (I've used this approach in both Blackboard and in D2L).

Here's the idea: I create a quiz with one True-False question. The content of the question is a list of requirements for the assignment. The True answer is correct, so when the student answers "true" to the list of requirements, the quiz automatically puts points for them in the Gradebook. Here's an example:

This type of Gradebook activity can work for any assignment where there is an objective checklist allowing the student to confirm that the assignment is complete. The way I do this is with a checklist, not a rubric, and there is no partial credit this way, although you could certainly create a quiz question or series of questions that function like a rubric and/or allowing students to declare partial work for partial credit.

This is the system I use for all the work in my classes; the students do all "grading" (such as it is), while I focus all my efforts on the feedback. I don't use the Gradebook; the students are the ones generating all the Gradebook activity. For more about how all-feedback-no-grades works in my class, here's a chapter I wrote for a forthcoming book about ungrading: Getting Rid of Grades.

Here are just some of the advantages of the Declaration system as I see it:

Students get credit immediately. Students don't have to wait, and they can see their credit accumulating assignment by assignment. For some students, this is highly motivating. It's also a time-saver for me. I'm not "grading" work that doesn't need to be graded, and I can focus my efforts on feedback to help students improve their work in future assignments.

Students get a reminder of key requirements. I am guilty of writing lengthy instructions for assignments. The Declarations, however, are very concise. For students who might have missed something important in the assignment, reading the Declaration gives them a final chance to check their work for completeness.

Students take responsibility for their work. It's not up to me to check that each assignment is complete; that's up to the students. If it turns out later that there's a problem, I can point out to the student that they said the assignment was complete, so they need to make sure to finish up. (Mistakes happen; the Declaration gives me a good basis to talk to students about that.)

The Declaration system establishes trust. I believe that mutual trust is essential for teaching and learning. This system shows the students that I trust them to keep track of their own work. In addition, I hope that students will develop greater trust in themselves by taking on this responsibility.