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The Effect of Grade Contracts on Student Performance Author(s): William A. Poppen and Charles L.

Thompson Source: The Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 64, No. 9 (May - Jun., 1971), pp. 420-424 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27536171 . Accessed: 08/01/2014 02:40
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THE JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH (Volume 64, Number 9, May-June 1971)

The Effect on Student

of Grade

Contracts

Performance1
WILLIAM A. POPPEN and CHARLES The University L. THOMPSON of Tennessee

ABSTRACT Each
perimental contract experimental

of four classes
(N=55) approach group; and while

of Educational
control the

Psychology

2430(Child

Study)

was

randomly divided

into two groups:


by a favored

ex

however,

The (N=55). was control group such differences

experimental evaluated were not

course group's by a traditional statistically

was evaluated performance method. differences Group

grade the

significant.

RECENTLY MUCH
at traditional

criticism has been leveled

to the evaluation and approaches in higher utilized education. process grading While unrest may attest to student dis campus satisfaction with many includ university policies the problem has been clearly identi ing grading, fied in the literature for a number of years. Over

a need exists of student for a system Clearly, or evaluation which does not learning impede feedback accurate motivation and still provides herein The study reported to the student. repre

sents one attempt

to fill the credibility Method

gap

in

grading.

50 years ago, Rugg

(4) pointed out the lack of perimental (N=55)

and the questionable of a uniformity validity is determined such grading system by which as promotion, crucial matters college admissions, and selection for honorarios, scholar graduation, Miller's ships, and fellowships. survey (2) recent on grading of studies tend to bear out the fact that grading still seem to suffer from practices low validity and reliability. From his review, he concluded that present tend to practices grading those qualities which we generally at discourage to scholarly : Creativity tribute and inde inquiry of forty-six pendent thought. Hoyt's (1) review studies the problem illustrated of low grading in grading Most of the studies validity practices. reviewed little relationship found between college success measures and various in the "out grades side" world. The obvious conflicts between the existing of traditional questionable validity prac grading tices and their influences and upon learning career have not stimulated a great development deal of innovation in our systems of learning evaluation. Most innovative have been attempts variations of the two-letter pass-fail system (2). these variations of the traditional Frequently A, amount to little more than B, C, D, and F system symbol manipulation. Wrinkle on the most (6), reporting popular or two-symbol deviation grading (the pass-fail found that many students were only con system), cerned with above the fail limit. A fur staying was found ther disadvantage in the lack of infor mation conveyed by the pass-fail system. marking

Each of four classes of Educational 2430 was into two divided randomly

Psychology : ex groups

and control

(N=55).

The

was course experimental performance group's while evaluated contract by the grade approach was evaluated the control group's performance a traditional method. by con The Grade The grade Contract Method.

tract (5) is designed to give the student choices


as the as well in selecting his learning activities contract level he wishes The to achieve. grade a structural continuum from complete provides in structure to complete for the student freedom choose He may his activities. learning selecting or he to meet level requirements suggested grade or learn substitute individual may independent or all of the suggested for any ing activities course requirements. value of learn Substitution of negotiation between is a manner ing activities instructor at the contract and student signing time. The contract is renegotiate at any time the quarter if the student feels he is not during con able to meet contract terms. Failure to meet tract terms that the student simply means quali fies for the grade the level achieved representing or below whether this be above the contracted for a "C" grade and level. A student contracting a "B" be would achieving naturally grade a "B." awarded The grade contract for has many advantages student and Student both instructor. anxiety as ambiguity about is diminished about grades course is the canceled contract's requirements by |

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POPPEN?THOMPSON
explicitness. as creased the Motivation the student of his to learn should be more involved and self-evalua in in

421 (d) Grading Procedure;


Study.

side Reading;
Independent

(e)

becomes

self-direction

learning

tion of his progress. Suddenly he finds himself


an academic

in

course where he has choices and an to behave The student opportunity responsibly. has an opportunity to succeed at his chosen level. The instructor also benefits the grade from Course contract. must be clarified be objectives fore the contract can be implemented. Clarifica tion of learning also removes much of objectives the ambiguity in grading student performance. a matter a pass becomes of determining Grading fail grade for the student's contracted level grade rather than assigning of A, OB,C, D, and grades F. Course curves go out the window grading because each student is doing his thing. An over all advantage seems to be the instructor-student can emerge which from the learning partnership contract method A for a copy of (see Appendix the grade contract used in the study). The Traditional For purposes Grading Method. of the study, a traditional was of grading method used for the control groups. It involved computing an average on two stand from scores made grade ardized and an outside tests, a case study report, were given no choices Students in report. reading their assignments and all students were evaluated on the same work, even following the same gen eral outline on the case study report of the child of the course. The instructors did phase study mention that independent could be done projects for extra grade credit. by the students Evaluation The effect of Criteria. contract was student upon learning the following : procedures of the grade assessed by

Treatment Data the collected from of Data. test results, and the semantic differential raters, were evaluated for an differences group by of variance. analysis

Findings
a comparison Table 1 presents of grades and test scores obtained by each of the treatment each of the four means groups. While favor the treatment none of the (grade group, contract) F values are significant at the .05 level of signifi
cance.

Table 1.?Mean Grades and Control on Groups

and F Course

ratios

for

the

Treatment

Assignments

Variable

Grade Contract Mean

Non Contract Mean F

Final
Case

Grade*
Study

2.964

2.911

0.182

Grade*
Character

3.009

3.045

0.099

Analysis*
Two Test

2.946

2.938

0.004

Scores**
F of 3.92 needed
*Based **Total total on

148.875
for

146.946

0.448

1. Comparison and final examina of midterm tion scores examina for each group (both are standardized tions tests of consisting and multiple-choice true-false items). 2. Comparison doctoral stu by raters (three dents in Educational were em Psychology as raters) ployed of the quality of child case study reports completed by the members of each group. 8. Comparison and by raters of the quality number of reaction papers completed by the members of each group. i. and Comparison by raters of the quality number of independent projects completed by the members of each group. 5. Comparison to a seman responses of student tic differential (the semantic form differen tial (see Appendix is a technique devel B) and others oped by Osgood (S) for measur Ss respond ing concept meaning by having to a bipolar adjective checklist) containing the following Educational concepts: (a)

.05 level of significance


scale: for the A=4, two etc. B=3, examinations: Possible

a 4-point raw scores score=200.

Table 2 presents a comparison of the means for various of the semantic differential eval concepts uative factor. The evaluative factor reportedly assesses the "goodness" or "badness" dimension of concept. In this particular situation the high est possible score was 21 and the low evaluation est score 7. Accordingly, the scores which ranged from 15 to 18, are considered indicative of posi tive attitude rather than negative ratings The data presented in Table 3 show the means for both treatment on the semantic differ groups ential total score. The mean scores for the grade are higher contract for all four concepts; group none are significant at the .05 level of however, significance. Summary

Psychology

2US0; (b) Case Study;

(c) Out

The lack of significant

difference between

the

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422
Table mantic and 2.?Mean Differential Control

THE JOURNALOF EDUCATIONALRESEARCH


and Factor F for the Se ratios for the Treatment

Ratings Concept Evaluative

students vious erable students

who studies success

are

in academic have

Groups

Variable Evaluative Factor Semantic Differential Concept

Grade Contract Mean

Non Contract Mean

contracts grade for academic experiencing failure. Average grades for Educational Psychol the C+ mark. ogy generally fall around 2. Some independent the grade contract as learning highly dents search cation. and projects approach stimulated by were valued

(5), with

trouble. Pre consid indicated

by the stu experiences one re instructors. At least be submitted paper will for publi

Course

18.268

17.250

2.365

Case Study
Grading

18.929 15.821 16.464

18.054 15.536 15.518

2.021 0.119 1.057

Procedures
Outside

Readings
F of 3.92 needed for

3. The two multiple-choice exam "objective" are not contributing to stu inations much dent In fact, be the tests may learning. Subjective hindering study. independent that evaluation indicates by the instructors those students study opting independent in place be of the examinations projects came more in "relevant" involved learning. contract is needed i. Revision of the grade to provide student further for individual an needs. For and differences example, is needed which the student allows option to choose an "incomplete" in the course if he is not able to meet terms by his contract the end of the quarter. The student should an "incomplete" be able to choose between he has not met his contract terms. students possible

.05 level of significance


and F ratios for the Se

Table

3.?Mean Groups

Concept

Ratings

mantic
Control

Differential

(Total Factor)

for the Treatment

and

or the grade for which he has qualified if

Variable Total Factor Semantic Differential Concept

Grade Contract Mean

Non Contract Mean F

comments of the Finally, by some of the grade contract's give an indication worth. Grade Contracts:

1. "Help students to know what is expected course requirements." them to meet

of

Course Case Study


Grading

47.089 49.750 44.929 45.464


for .05 level of

44.875 47.018 44.036 43.357


significance

2.622 3.460 0.191 1.439

2. 3. 4.

".

". cated' ".

. . provide for individual . . shift responsibility of to the the student." instructor to a voice between

differences." 'becoming clarify edu course

Procedures
Outside

. . help objectives." 5. ". . . give

the students cooperation

and a choice." student and

Readings
F of 3.92 needed

6. ". . . build instructor."

Conclusions leads the experi treatment and control groups one of two possible to draw menter conclusions: is not all that bad, approach (1) our traditional or (2) our grade is not all that contract approach good. Are the grade contracts of value? This research does not substantiate the value of grade contracts over traditional col when used with approaches or There value be undetected students. may lege value that may with further modifi be obtained The procedure cations. does allow move certainly and ment of instruction individualization toward as a grading seems to have no real disadvantages procedure.

Sallying forth beyond the data into a world of


produced the grade the following contract works thoughts best for : 1. Perhaps

introspection

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POPPEN?THOMPSON
FOOTNOTE
was 1. The research nessee Mini-Grant. supported by a University of Ten 2. Complete

423
a "C" level case study report (see of case

study guidelines).
a before 3. Do and after case child's class study case report. 4. Do the student problem child's 5. Attend 6. Participate teacher. classes in either with and classes a home your daily study quiz and visit child. observation child at notes least six at the end of sections a minimum sociometric and report survey with analysis the results case your in the

REFERENCES
1. Hoyt, D., and Adult Research 7:i, 2. Miller, Resources ville, 3. 1967. G.; P., Tannenbaum, of Illinois Press, and and Marking Supervision, The Measure 1957. Systems," 1:117 1965. S., Measure, Center, Number, The University and Weight: of A Polemical Relationship A Achievement: Reports, American "The Between Review College of Grades College the Literature," Program,

your

study of

Testing

twenty-three
7. Conduct experience

times (roll will


quiz

be taken).
sections. outside observation or an

Statement

of the College

Grading

Problem,
Tennessee,

Learning
Knox

8. Turn in your the quarter. 9. Observe case the quarter.

C; Osgood, Suci, ment of Meaning,

University

times

during

4. Rugg, H., Educational

"Teacher's Marks Administration

Grade D
1. Score at least 55% study daily on the midterm at least and six final times at the exams. during end of of 2. case Observe the quarter. child

142, 1915.
5. Thompson, C; of Redirecting press. 6. Wrinkle, W., Rinehart tices, and Reporting Improving Marking and Inc., New Company, York, Prac 1963. M., Davis, Motivation," "Grade A Method Contracts: on Guidance, Focus in

3. Turn in your the quarter. 4. Attend twenty-three 5. Conduct classes

observation

notes

APPENDIX A Educational Psychology


Grade Grade A
1. 2. Score at least 85% on level after class the midterm case study

2430

experience

and a minimum sections quiz times will be taken). (roll a home either or an outside visit observation with child. your

Contract
and report analysis the results case final exams. (see of case

Grade F
1. Nothing * An for nothing. Project of your design may Project be form sub to

Independent

an "A" Complete study guidelines). a before 3. Do and case child's study case report. the student teacher. classes in child's

stituted
above indicate

with

instructor

approval

for any

or all of the

sociometric and report with

your in the

requirements. the nature

Use the Independent of your project.

4. Do 5. Attend

problem and quiz

survey

your a

Grade study I have read the attached of

Contract description of the requirements

sections

minimum

for the grades A, B, C, D, and F and on the basis of these


requirements

twenty-three
6. Participate 7. Conduct

times
classes

(roll will
and an

be taken).
quiz sections.

wish
the the

to contract for grade of_If


requirements for my chosen

I,_,

I fail to fulfill
grade, contract I will during accept the the week

a home visit and with your perience child; case write-up. daily child

ex outside observation in your these data report notes seven at the end of the

grade
following

for which

I have qualified.

I understand

that I have

option

8. Turn in your the quarter. 9. Observe quarter. your

to renegotiate this midterm examinations.

observation at least

Date_Student_ Renegotiation_Instructor_

times

during

Individualized
at least a 75% "B" on level after class the midterm case study and report analysis the results your case final exams. (see of case

Contract

Terms

Grade B
1. 2. Score Complete study guidelines). a before 3. Do and case child's study case report. 4. Do the student teacher. class and in quiz sections and a minimum of twenty child's 5. Attend 6. Participate 7. Conduct

1. 2. 3. 4. INDEPENDENT
Course

sociometric and report survey with

your in the

STUDY

problem

study

three times (roll will


classes

be taken).
sections. quiz an outside ex observation these data in your report notes seven at the end of the

a home visit and with perience your child; case study write-up. daily child

8.

in your Turn the quarter. your quarter.

observation at least

number_Term_Student_ can be done Independent in lieu of any study class require such as a term paper, ment, or examina assigned project, The tion. and of the study scope depth the depends upon it is replacing. requirements The of proposing process can be accomplished independent study out the by filling outline. following 1. What do you want to find out? are you going 2. How to do it (resources and procedures) ? 3. How do you plan to evaluate and report your learning? 4. What does grade requirement this (s) study replace?

9. Observe

times

during

USE
at least 65% on the midterm and final exams. I

THE BACK
that

Grade C
1. Score certify

OF THIS SHEET IF ADDITIONAL SPACE IS NEEDED


study is a new learning experience

this

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424
for me._ for for submission resubmission_ approval_ of

THE JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL


Narrow proposal Positive

RESEARCH
:_:_:_:_:_:_:_: Wide

Deadline Deadline Instructor's

:_:_:_:_:_s_:_:

N?gative

Complicated Predictable Understandable Weak Worthless Shallow * The

:_:_:_:_:_:_:_:

Simple

APPENDIX B Semantic Differential Form


* Concept
Strong :_:_'_:_:_:_'_*

:_:_:_:_:_:_:_:

Unpredictable

:_:_:_:_:_:_:_: :_:_:_:_:_:_:_:

Mysterious Valuable

:_:_:_:_:_:_:_: Deep Bad :_:_:_:_:_:_:_:

concepts and

used Independent

in

this

study

were:

Educational

Good

Psychology
Procedure,

2430, Case

Study, Outside
Study.

Reading,

Grading

Book

Reviews
ROBERT E. CLASEN Editor Book Review

Issues
Kroll, Arthur M. and

in American
others. Oxford

Education
University Press, Eng

accurate

than

estimates

he makes

for

himself?

How

far

ahead
amount

should
of

student make
alter with

his

estimates?
time?

Does

the

satisfaction facts or

land, 1970, 202 pp. $6.00. ONE WAY to review


the this

Goals a book is to report


book engenders has method in been

of education

should not be the direct

teaching

some of the
the mind of the of the adopted, report

ideas and questions Since reviewer. the

authors
meanderings reviewer's in American eral times assessment,

should not be held


of mental the reviewer.

responsible

for

the mental

but values change, Yes, value? is the anchor What do they change? is the correct one test values? What does How philosoph each of us with endowed The Creator ical ultimate? guides, Moses should revelations. are the most authentic which Thou shalt an eleventh commandment: down have brought thee. endowed I have with which the urges satisfy rear from back how men It is strange acknowledging even contend action. in their visible the truth every They instead that at satisfaction?but not aim should that man of some it will be a by-product that pre he should hope become aims aim. These nobler they sumed fixed, thereby man's toward block and create progress gaps generation in education. true goal

desegregation, self?brilliant book The what toward

Issues williewaws saying book. Sev is a very Education stimulating of national treatment the book's while reading vocational in education, guidance, technology to him said the reviewer other and topics, innovative. and values. discusses

The following is a way of

con such Textbooks having principles. should social and do in science often studies, they as read on the reference such skills shelf. be placed Only be the should and mathematics ing, reasoning, composition, skills of these and development direct aims of instruction, of either as tent, should How ciples be no by-products. about values? while trying less be Sensible to satisfy adults some learn personal facts and urge. prin Stu

dents from the first grade

through

the university

should

sensible. assess the national discusses review The under book of the ment the reviewer's test. approval general Despite the test to find he was amazed assessment national test, item as the metal an insignificant factual such containing been cans. have tin It would in making used entirely a student to go how knew to test whether appropriate an item. It is a tribute to such the answer about finding so well in view of all that he did to Dr. Tyler's genius who to be satisfied. had the groups as literature and lists The book proper art, music, a be should there In school of education. every goals and of participation, amount enjoyment sharing, large

of all three. But

it should all be in fun. The

supervisor

of

re until she was number of the greatest greatest good a dozen man the young she had that minded just married tends of education of goals Discussion wanted. other girls of the to consideration down it gets until sterile to be an and individual's of real urges life, namely, dynamics him. inhabit which the urges to satisfy his efforts be posed. should which in education are some issues Here of life and a student's are the issues out of the heart Since of his intimate are the most personality, portion urges to alter for a school is it permissible extent to what urges? a student to be teach when in error Are educators they unselfish to his sacrifice and urges so many wear others since especially will of what estimate dent's satisfy of others the urges a stu that masks less them is much

A young

lady claimed

that the ultimate

good was

the

I asked me class. When to a music music kindly guided to them directed for me, the teacher to sing the children The to a certain in the music book. turn page pupils asked this reviewer Then struggled-through-the-song. own "Don't a song chose choice. them to sing of their They for the roof. raised Me Fence In" and Except nearly or are music students while incidental enjoying teaching inter for the few with arts other and exceptional except marks. with achievement be no set courses should est, there from more reviewer has heard This Smoky coming singing from inhab coves heard he has than Mountain coming itants in urban or suburban homes.

William
Emeritus Teachers

A. McCall
Professor College, of Education University Columbia

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