What is it?

Gradescope is a feedback and assessment tool meant to reduce the effort and time associated with grading exams, homework, and other assignments. It enables instructors and graders to give deeper and more timely feedback, and uses dynamic rubrics to help streamline tedious work.

Gradescope can help instructors eliminate unconscious bias. Because it shows submissions anonymously and defaults to grading-by-question rather than grading-by-user, it promotes consistency in grading.

Gradescope can help instructors grade faster. The system allows instructors to grade handwritten homework and exams electronically, which makes it ideal for STEM subjects and languages. Gradescope can be particularly helpful when homework or test answers are likely to have a lot of equations, charts, or diagrams, or for language classes that require learning to write different characters or symbols. Gradescope also helps with grading programming assignments at scale and can automatically grade printed bubble sheets. The system will group similar submissions together, which makes it quicker and easier to provide meaningful feedback to each group at once.

Gradescope is used by a number of universities and colleges, including Duke, Princeton, Berkeley, and Amherst.

Why is this useful?

Providing effective feedback to students is one of the most critical influences on student learning. (Hattie, 2007) Positive feedback, in particular, can increase the likelihood that students will return to or persist in an activity and self-report higher interest in the activity. (Deci, 1999) According to Yeatman and Hewitt (2020), formative assessment and feedback comments should be considered as a fundamental part of course design.

In The Power of Feedback, Hattie and Timperley define four levels of feedback:

  1. Feedback about the task or product (“You need to include more about the Treaty of Versailles.”)
  2. Feedback about the process (“This page may make more sense if you use the strategies we talked about earlier.”)
  3. Feedback about self-regulation (“You already know the key features of the opening of an argument. Check to see whether you have incorporated them in your first paragraph.”)
  4. Feedback directed to the self as a person (“You are a great student.” “Great effort.”)

The authors argue that the first three levels of feedback can be very effective in improving student learning, and note that there is a body of research showing that providing written comments to students is more effective than assigning grades in improving learning, particularly when the comments fall into the first category of feedback and relate directly to the task or product the students have completed. They note that previously, Page (1958) found that short written comments rather than grades alone significantly improved the test performance of students. Butler (1988) showed that feedback through written comments led to learning gains, whereas grades alone did not.

Interestingly, Hattie and Timperley found that the fourth level of feedback, directed at the student as a person, can be counterproductive and is rarely effective. Students can perceive praise after success or neutral feedback after failure “as an indication that the teacher perceived their ability to be low.” On the other hand, criticism after a failure and neutral feedback after a success, students “perceived that the teacher has estimated their ability to be high and their effort low.” (Hattie, 2007) Also, when feedback focuses on the student as a person, students try to avoid the risks involved in tackling challenging assignments to minimize effort, in order to minimize the risk to the self. (Black & William, 1998)

The Learning & Teaching Center has developed an Effective Feedback Practices document which provides additional information about providing constructive feedback to students. Born out of a 2018 workshop and lunch series, this document is available in the Teaching Toolbox section of the LTC website.

Gradescope can facilitate effective feedback by eliminating a lot of tedious (and “disempowering and frankly soul destroying” (Yeatman, 2020)) organizational busywork. It can also allow instructors to compose, store and reuse comments they make on student work, making it easier more efficient to write longer, more meaningful comments.

Examples from Carleton

Kate Meyer
Kate Meyer

Kate Meyer uses Gradescope to grade homework and tests in all of her classes at Carleton, including Intro to Calculus and Real Analysis. Kate reports that the default Gradescope setting of grading by question rather than by user is helpful and promotes consistency in grading. She notes that since Gradescope shows submissions without student names as she grades, it’s also a useful tool to lessen unintentional bias.

Kate says that grading by building a rubric as she goes has been a very positive experience. “It’s really changed the way that I grade. Instead of trying to come up with a master rubric that is going to catch everything that can happen on a problem, I go in and get a feel and I start to make rubric items. Then, it’s very adaptive as I go. But I’m not grading inconsistently as I update since it’s applying my changes back to everything I’ve already done. I don’t just settle for a bad rubric because I’m in too deep – I wind up with rubrics that I feel good about, that are measuring what I want to measure, that are fair, and that are applied consistently.”

MurphyKate Montee
MurphyKate Montee

MurphyKate Montee uses Gradescope here at Carleton for exams and homework grading in her Calculus classes. She gives her exams on paper, collects them, and then scans them into Gradescope herself. She reports that this is very easy – she just has to take the staples out and then set all the exams on the scanner at once. They are all scanned as one batch, and then Gradescope is able to sort out where each exam starts and ends, and to read the handwritten name of each student. It organizes the electronic version, and attaches each one to the correct student account. All she has to do is the grading – the administrative work is handled automatically. 

For homework, students are responsible for converting their handwritten work to PDF and uploading to the system. MurphyKate polled her students at the beginning of the term to see how many had smartphones, and everyone did. Students can use any app they choose to take a picture of their work and convert it to PDF, although Gradescope has some recommendations for software that is proven to work well. Gradescope provides a step-by-step walkthrough of the process for students, and MurphyKate reports that she hasn’t had any complaints or issues with this requirement.

She has used Gradescope for a number of years, starting at the University of Chicago where she managed a team of graders. “I had undergraduate graders who were being a bit  inconsistent in their grading. I thought that moving to anonymous and question-by-question grading would help with that inconsistency, and it did seem to. Then I discovered that it’s much easier to grade with Gradescope than it is by hand.  So it started as a purely practical thing, but it has become a great tool. For questions where the answer is an equation or sketching on a graph, it’s really excellent.”

MurphyKate notes that Gradescpope can read and render LaTeX, which helps with providing feedback. 

Andy Poppick
Andy Poppick

Andy Poppick uses Gradescope for his Intro to Statistics and Intro to Statistical Inference classes. He started using Gradescope with his move to online teaching. He notes that not only is grading with Gradescope faster, but that because it’s anonymous by default it can help to reduce unintentional biases and promote consistency across submissions. “In my department, student graders grade the homework. Gradescope is helping in making the best use of our students’ time. If they can get through things faster, that means they’re able to provide  better feedback and be more consistent. The side benefit is that it’s really easy for me to look at what the graders have graded – by problem – and see where there were common issues that I can then bring to the class.”

Andy says that he was initially concerned about the additional time and effort required of his students to convert their work to PDF and upload it, but he says he has not heard any complaints, and that it probably only adds a couple of minutes of work for each student. He says that he explains that these few minutes of extra work are the trade-off for better, faster, more consistent feedback. Andy reports that while he started using Gradescope as a part of his shift to Moodle and other online tools due to the need for online learning, and he says that he plans to continue using it when he’s back in the classroom. This was really motivated by the move online but I’ve been very happy with Gradescope and plan to continue using it when we’re back in person. There’s a lot of things that just work more easily.”

How do I use it at Carleton?

Carleton has purchased an institutional license to Gradescope and the system is available for any faculty member to use.  Gradescope is integrated into Moodle and can be enabled for a Moodle course by clicking “Add an Activity or Resource” the same way you would add any other Moodle functionality. 

Moodleaddactivity

To use Gradescope with handwritten assignments or tests, student submissions first need to be scanned into PDF files. This can be done either by each student using their smartphone, or by the instructor. Gradescope suggests using its own app for scanning in pdf files, and provides its own instructions for the Gradescope app in video as well as text format. However, the Gradescope app is not just for scanning pdfs! It can be used to view assignments, download instructor provided pdfs, and view grades.

If you don’t wish to use the Gradescope app, you will still need a way to scan your assignments in as a pdf and submit them. Gradescope has provided detailed scanning instructions for students for other pdf scanning apps such as Scannable for iOS devices and Genius Scan for Android.

Once everything is converted to PDF, Gradescope manages the documents and makes it easy to add grades and comments to either individual submissions or groups of similar submissions, and to view statistics about each question once grading is finished. Groupings can be created either manually, or automatically by the system.

One of the most powerful features of Gradescope is the ability to build a rubric on the fly. As an instructor looks at a student submission, they can subtract points for specific mistakes. Once that specific mistake and point reduction is recorded, it’s added to the assignment rubric and available as the instructor works through every other submission. In this way, a grading rubric is created as the instructor works, and future changes to it are reflected back to previously graded assignments.

In this video, Kate Meyer demonstrates some of the features of Gradescope, and how she uses it.


How-To Directions

Help links provided by Gradescope:

For Faculty

For Students

 

References

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and Classroom Learning. Assessment in Education : Principles, Policy & Practice5(1), 7–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/0969595980050102

Butler, R. (1988). The Effects of Task-Involving Evaluation on Interest and Performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology58(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8279.1988.tb00874.x

Deci, E., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. (1999). A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation. Psychological Bulletin125(6), 627–668. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.125.6.627

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research77(1), 81–112. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487

Page, E. (1958). Teacher comments and student performance: A seventy-four classroom experiment in school motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology49(4), 173–181. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0041940

Yeatman, L., & Hewitt, L. (2020). Feedback: a reflection on the use of Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick’s feedback principles to engage learners. Law Teacher, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069400.2020.1780843