For the first time, I'm using contract grading in my courses. It is a total game-changer, for my students as well as for me, and I'm never going back. Here's a little thread for folks interested: #AcademicTwitter #highered #teaching
Contract grading is a kind of #ungrading that evaluates a student's labor, rather than their performance. (You can read all about it in the book _Ungrading_, edited by @SusanDebraBlum).
At the beginning of the term, after students have a chance to look over the syllabus and understand what we'll be doing, they contract for the grade that they wish to earn, based on the amount of labor that they're willing to put into the course. We both sign a contract.
Students are held to that contract, just like a contract for a job. There are penalties for breaking the contract, or for failing to meet the expectations spelled out in the contract. (If a student wishes to re-contract for another grade later in the term, they can.)
For example, in one of my courses, everyone is required to complete two major assignments. There are 3 additional major projects assigned over the rest of the term. If they contract for an A, they must complete all 3 satisfactorily. For a B, they must complete 2. For a C, 1.
Attendance also factors into this: Students who contract for an A must not miss more than 2 class meetings, and so on.
But here's the real beauty of this system: Because it evaluates labor rather than ability or skill, everyone is on a level playing field. Writing ability or background knowledge are no longer relevant in evaluation. Do the work and earn the grade.
This means that freshmen & seniors, majors & non-majors, native English speakers & English language learners all have the same ability to earn an A.

All assignments are graded satisfactory /unsatisfactory. (I spell out clearly what each satisfactory assignment entails.)
I'm reading some essays right now, and I cannot express how much more I'm enjoying reading what students have written, without worrying about whether each one is an "A paper" or a "B paper." I still give lots of feedback on their writing, but without a letter grade attached.
This takes the pressure off of me in terms of grading (I don't have those moments of thinking: If I give Student X a B+, then Student Y should get an A-). And it takes the pressure off of students; expectations are clear & they don't have to guess about what I "want" in a paper.
So far, I've had a few students reach out to re-contract for different grades, either because they're overwhelmed and realize that they can put less labor into my course, or because they're excited and want to put in more labor. Students are completely in control of their grades.
We're only halfway into the term, so we'll see how it goes after a few more weeks. But so far, this feels like it's a process that refocuses the emphasis of my courses on learning and exploration, rather than outcomes and assessment. And that's what college should be about.
Because folks are asking, here's an example of the contract for one of my courses this term:…

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