Excellence in Teaching Day

Excellence in Teaching Day is a full-day event that brings faculty from across BC together with nationally-recognized scholars to discuss urgent questions about teaching and learning. This year Excellence in Teaching Day was held in person — with some hybrid options available — in 245 Beacon on Monday, May 8 from 9:30 - 3:30.

See breakout session recordings and materials in the 'Breakout Sessions' tab

Grading: Evaluating What We Value

When the newly-formed Center for Teaching Excellence hosted its first Excellence in Teaching Day in 2015, the moment that spurred the strongest reactions – both positive and negative – was the conclusion of Mike Wesch’s keynote. Although providing few details, Wesch sketched a compelling picture of an alternative grading approach predicated on the rule that “everybody gets up.” In other words, grades weren’t about dividing students according to performance; they were a tool meant to help every student succeed. While some were inspired by Wesch’s push to reimagine grades in order to put learners’ needs first, others objected to the time commitment required by his approach and questioned its applicability at a research university committed to rigor. Everyone was left wanting to hear more.

Now, eight years later — driven by advances in the learning sciences, greater attention to student mental health, and pandemic-fueled reconsiderations of long-held classroom norms —  conversations about “ungrading” and other grading alternatives are in the mainstream of pedagogical debates. For this Excellence in Teaching Day, we engaged these calls to re-examine the values driving our systems of evaluation by digging into the current research on grading. We looked back at the history of how today’s grading norms were first constructed and interrogate emerging calls to reimagine grading systems in light of concerns about equity, student learning outcomes, and student mental health. We reflected together on which values are driving our respective grading decisions and how well our grading systems enable us to evaluate the learning we value most.

Keynote Lecture

Photo of Josh Eyler

"The Call Is Coming from Inside the House: How Grades Limit Learning and Impact Student Wellbeing"

View Josh Eyler's keynote recording

Getting a good grade is supposed to be a marker of excellence, but research shows that grades diminish our intrinsic motivation and emphasize the outcome rather than the process that leads to what researchers refer to as deep learning. Grades also mirror and magnify many of the systemic inequities that are a part of higher education. Further still, rates of anxiety and depression have spiked dramatically for teens and young adults, and academic stress tied to grades is a leading cause of this escalation.

In this keynote presentation, Joshua Eyler (Director of Faculty Development at the University of Mississippi and author of How Humans Learn) led attendees through a structured reflection exercise designed to spark our thinking about the connections between our grading practices, our values, and our beliefs about education. He then explored some of the research on grades and offered a range of strategies we can try, both in our classrooms and at the institutional level, in order to be more just in our classrooms by mitigating the damaging effects of grades.

Expert Presentation & Workshop

Photo of Courtney Sobers

Courtney Sobers, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Rutgers, also joined us for ETD to provide a research presentation and facilitate a workshop on alternative approaches to grading. See full details under the “Breakouts” tab below.

Past Programs