Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Ian Barnard

Second Advisor

Jan Osborn

Third Advisor

Morgan Read-Davidson


In Spring 2020, I conducted an I.R.B. approved study with the students in my English 103: Writing About Writing course. I wanted to determine how students felt about the two grading models—a qualitative-grading system vs a modified form of contract grading that I called a participation-based system—at two separate points in the semester. Early on I gave students a survey gathering data about their past experiences with both models. Prior to enrollment in my course, none had experienced a participation-based classroom, but everyone was familiar and comfortable with grading rubrics. The survey had 21 questions and gauged concepts from the effects of qualitative grading on creativity to the way assessments helped them understand assignments. Then, after experiencing a participation-based model, I gave a follow up survey with similar questions to see how their views and opinions of the two systems changed with experience. In addition, I used student reflection to gain written data regarding the assessments.

This research was inspired by studies done by Peter Elbow, Linda Nilson, Asao Inoue, and many other scholars who have been exploring new composition assessment models. My study shows that grading and grading rubrics may end up doing more harm than good.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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