Implementation of a Contract-Based Grading System in PTA Education

Purpose : The purpose of this project was to trial a novel grading system, describe its use and challenges, and determine its potential appropriateness for use in specified courses within physical therapy education.Description : Reliable and efficient grading in courses grounded in subjective reflection can be difficult for physical therapy educators. Well-structured rubrics can aid rater reliability, but evaluating content remains subjective, potentially biased, and time consuming. Vague grading practices for subjective assignments can also result in student frustration. Considering this, as well as past student feedback, we decided to trial a (hybrid) contract-based grading system, a concept that has been used at the collegiate level since the 1970s. Support for this type of grading system in physical therapy education includes an increased student accountability for and active role in grade responsibility, which aligns with fostering professionalism and the development of lifelong learning.Summary of Use : After course assignments were determined, a hybrid contract-based grading system was developed. This included pre-set quantity requirements for certain assignments and a rubric that was used to measure quality by assessing completion of objective content requirements and rewarding increased student effort. Point deduction penalties for breaches of contract such as late submission or submitting a substandard assignment were also established. The students were given one opportunity over the semester to resubmit an assignment if they did not achieve their contracted grade. Upon the start of the semester, the grading system was explained to students and they were given one week to return the signed contract with their chosen grade. Assignments were graded accordingly throughout the semester and final grades calculated. Feedback was solicited from the students anonymously via open-ended survey at the end of the semester. Student responses revealed mixed opinions about the concept, poor overall understanding of the grading system, and some resistance to increased student self-responsibility for learning. Anecdotal observations from the instructors revealed the need for increased emphasis on student comprehension and buy-in of the grading system and clearer penalty implementation processes. However, final grades appeared to accurately differentiate among student effort levels within the class.Importance to Members: Reliable and efficient grading in courses grounded in subjective reflection can be challenging. (Hybrid) contract-based grading appears to have potential for being an effective grading system for such courses in both PT and PTA curricula and may have positive effects on student accountability and the development of lifelong learning skills.

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  • Control #: 1727427
  • Type: Poster
  • Event/Year: CSM2014
  • Authors: Jill E. Kester, Christina Hein
  • Keywords: PTA Education|educational assessment

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