Campus-wide grade and grading policy is contained in SAAP 1-11 Grading and Grade Records for All Schools and Colleges. All instructors should familiarize themselves with the requirements specified there.
In coordination with their designated instructor or supervisor, Teaching Assistants often evaluate students’ performance in courses and decide on the appropriate grade. The basis for grading and the expectations on all written assignments should be explained clearly in the course syllabus distributed at the beginning of the semester. This ensures that students are informed about the grading practice of the instructor, and also protects the instructor from charges of arbitrariness in evaluation. In courses with multiple sections, the instructor of record should ensure that grading practices and policies are consistent across sections.
Grading can be one of the more stressful parts of teaching for new Teaching Assistants. Some Teaching Assistants will be working exclusively as graders, evaluating many of the assignments in a large lecture course. Others will grade all assignments in their own course. Most will need to provide evaluative feedback in one form or another, such as comments to online discussion posts.
Assistants should be aware that there can be significant variation between instructors, classes, and disciplines in approaches to grading, grading scales, and grading standards. For example, the university does not have a standard grading scale that determines percentage cutoffs for letter grades, so in one course a 93 and above may count as an A, and in another a 94 and above. Some programs insist on more consistency of grading standards across instructors and courses than others. Because grading standards vary, all instructors should provide students with as much detail about grading practices as possible.
Especially in qualitative fields, grading rubrics are an important tool for ensuring fairness and consistency. Supervisors of Teaching Assistants assigned to multiple sections of the same course should consider asking instructors to provide grading rubrics if they are not already available. For more information, see Enhancing Student Learning and Success Through Rubrics from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Rubrics can also help assistants grade more quickly, fairly, and consistently.
All instructors are encouraged to use the Gradebook function in Canvas, which allows students to assess their own progress at all times. Prompt grading of assignments and entry of grades in Canvas gives students the feedback they need to adjust their investment of time and effort as the course progresses.
Extra credit. The principle of equal treatment of all students should be the fundamental guide in responding to requests for special consideration. No student should be given an opportunity to improve a grade that is not made available to all members of the class. This policy is not intended to exclude reasonable accommodation of verified student disability, or the completion of work missed as the result of religious observance, verified illness, or justified absence due to circumstances beyond the student’s control.
Retaining records. For a period of one year following the term in which the course is given, Teaching Assistants should maintain records that are sufficient to:
- determine if an error was made in assigning or recording a grade,
- show that grading conforms to your announced grading policy,
- determine the grade for a student removing an incomplete, and
- report the performance of students who attended for only part of the term.
Teaching Assistants should preserve examinations and written material not returned to students for one year. In the event that an assistant will not be available during the one-year period, they should make arrangements with their supervisor, program coordinator or department chair to preserve documents for the appropriate period.
Posting grades. Students have right to confidentiality to their academic records, including scores and grades on assignments and exams. Under no circumstances should individual student grades be shared with other students, nor should grades be emailed to students. Assistants should review the FERPA requirements in this Handbook in the Family Educational Records Protection Act section. Posting a list of students’ names and grades represents a violation of the provision regarding release of a student’s education record without written authorization and should not be allowed. Be aware that social security numbers, UWM student ID numbers, or any parts of them may not be used to identify grades whether they are final, exam or assignment grades. However, grades may be posted as long as the procedure used ensures student anonymity. Posting grades with a unique identifier known only to the student and instructor or instructors is acceptable. In such cases, instructors should not order the list alphabetically.
Submitting grades. Official grades and grade changes are submitted by instructors through PAWS. If Teaching Assistants are recording grades in any other manner, they must be re-entered and uploaded into PAWS in order to post to a student’s transcript. Step-by-step instructions of this process are available online at uwm.edu/registrar/academic-unit-services/instructor-grading/
Grading Scales. There is no official grading scale that defines percentage cutoffs for letter grades, such as a 93 as a uniform campus minimum grade for an A. These scales vary course by course, but SAAP 1-11 requires that “the basis for grading and the expectations on all written assignments shall be explained clearly in the course syllabus distributed at the beginning of the semester.”
However, UWM converts letter grades into a Grade Point Average using a standard 4.000 scale. For convenience in computing averages, each letter grade carries a specified number of points per credit. The uniform conversion of letter grades to grade points is:
F grades. When reporting a grade of ‘F,’ you will also report a number corresponding to the student’s “week of last participation” in the course, such as ‘F0,’ ‘F1,’ and so on, with 1 equating to the first week of the course, 2 to the second, etc. This is the last week of the term for which there is documented evidence of the student’s participation. “Documented evidence of participation” may include any work or materials received from the student, such as exams, quizzes, projects, homework, etc. Documented evidence of participation might also take the form of an attendance roster (if attendance is taken in class), an annotation by the instructor/supervisor that the student was observed attending class or otherwise participating in the course on a certain date, etc. Evidence may not take the form of simply logging into an online class without active participation. (Per interpretation of the Program Integrity Regulations published by the U.S. Department of Education on October 29, 2010.)
For further details, please see the Credit Hour policy which documents the (federally mandated) amount of work to be completed by a student per credit hour at: uwm.edu/secu/wp-content/uploads/sites/122/2014/07/2838_Credit_Hour_Policy.pdf
Incompletes. The UWM policy on incomplete grades is contained in policy document SAAP 1-13 Incomplete Grades. A summary of the undergraduate incomplete policy can also be found in the UWM Catalog. An incomplete may be given to a student who has carried a subject successfully until near the end of the semester but, because of illness or other unusual and substantiated cause beyond that student’s control, has been unable to take or complete the final examination or to complete some limited amount of course work. A course marked incomplete must be finished during the next succeeding semester of enrollment, excluding summer sessions and UWinterim. If the student does not remove the incomplete during this period, the report of “I” will lapse to “F”.
Grade appeals. Each program has established undergraduate and graduate procedures for handling matters such as complaints pertaining to grades and other decisions made by instructional staff. Students should meet with the instructor first regarding any grading concerns. Students who continue to have concerns should be directed to the department chair for next steps.
GER courses. The Higher Learning Commission and the UWM Academic Program and Curriculum Committee (APCC) requires that General Education Courses are assessed on an ongoing basis to ensure they are meeting requirements. Teaching Assistants assigned to GER courses may be responsible for ensuring the course meets those requirements and for reporting assessment data. The GER Guide for Instructors document provides detailed instructions.