I have seen (by some of my former instructors) the following strategy applied as an alternative to traditional "midterms and final" assessment in a math course:

  • Students take a quiz weekly. Each quiz question is tied to a specific standard. On its own, this could serve as a mix of formative/summative assessment, depending on whether the grading scheme includes midterms as well and what weight these quizzes are assigned.

  • The quizzes are graded and handed back fairly quickly, with some amount of feedback.

  • On each week's quiz, there are additional questions which cover the previous week's "new standards", though they might be different questions. Students who did not perform as well as they wanted the first time can also attempt these questions and replace their grade for the previous week's question.

I know that this is a type of to "standards based grading." However, I'd like to know whether there is a name for this specific assessment scheme other than "standards based grading" (since this assessment scheme refers to a specific implementation of standards based grading) and whether there is any research regarding whether this scheme is effective in a college math classroom -- both in instructor time and student learning. A Google search has proved fruitless, because I do not know what terms to search for.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ During the covid epidemic, I'm giving short weekly exams rather than just a couple of midterms and a final, although I'm not doing the other things you describe. The reason is simply that it makes it harder for students to cheat by posting their exam questions on chegg. The exams are 30-60 minutes, which is usually too short to get an answer back on chegg. $\endgroup$
    – user507
    Dec 4, 2020 at 3:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This is close to (but not exactly the same as ) "mastery assessment". The main difference is that in mastery assessment the frequent quizzes can be re-taken without penalty until they are, well, mastered. $\endgroup$
    – mweiss
    Dec 4, 2020 at 16:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'll challenge some of the premises in this question. (a) This doesn't immediately sound like standards-based grading to me. Are final grades reported on a per-topic breakdown? To my understanding, that is the definition (and seems unlikely in college). (b) Not every practice in college teaching has a formal identity or name. In fact, quite often college discipline instructors avoid and are legitimately skeptical of the guidance from education departments. That said, perhaps "frequent assessment" or "continuous assessment" is the closest descriptor you'll find. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2020 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ Along with the others, I dont know of an ed fad name. But I had pre calculus and calculus taught like this and thought it was great. At first seems like a lot of tests. But you really get used to a regular pattern of Monday to Thursday lecture and Friday test. And I would call a period long thing a test. And reserve the word quiz for less than period long tests. $\endgroup$
    – guest
    Dec 6, 2020 at 9:17

2 Answers 2


Opal: Your proposed scheme does indeed sound like the Second Chance Grading scheme I created and wrote about in PRIMUS (see the link and figure Brendan referenced). I'm happy to chat further with you -- and anyone else interested -- about the system, how it has fared since I wrote the article -- including during the pandemic (spoiler alert: it's still awesome!) -- and its connections to other grading systems.

As others have already pointed out, the scheme you (Opal) envision has elements of mastery grading in it. It also attempts to operationalize and synthesize the latest research on growth mindsets and aspects of the scholarship of teaching and learning. I highly recommend reading my article, as well as the references I cite, for more details. Send me and email ([email protected]) if you can't find the article for free through your institution or library and I'll send it to you.

  • $\begingroup$ Glad to see Oscar Fernandez posting here. But I'll remind readers that growth mindset theory has failed numerous replication attempts, e.g.: psychbrief.com/growth-mindset-fails , scientificamerican.com/article/… , osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/tsdwy $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2021 at 1:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the new resources, Daniel; I'll take a look soon. The two most important (and impactful, in my experience) notions I take from the growth mindset literature are: (a) combating fixed mindsets; (b) the word "yet." I've found these to be transformative interventions, especially in math classes. The reasons are simple and intuitive. Most people think that they're either "math people" or they're not (fixed mindset). Therefore, any failure (like failure on a test) confirms this bias and demotivates students. The interventions (a) and (b) help reverse these effects and remotivate them. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ It's a feel-good theory, but the evidence doesn't bear out the effects. As a general rule, all or most "goal-priming" type theories in psychology fall in this category. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 3:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The evidence depends on the context and student population. Example: the Sisk et al. meta-analysis (journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797617739704) found that "for those from low-SES households (7 effect sizes), academic achievement was significantly higher for those who received growth-mind-set interventions relative to controls, d=0.34, 95% CI=[0.07,0.62], p=0.13." Compare this to their findings for low-risk students: "Growth-mind-set intervention did not significantly improve academic achievement relative to controls for low-risk students, d=0.06, 95% CI=[-0.01,0.12], p=.109." $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ This seems like classic goal-priming to me. They need to finely dice the population to get any result. A p-value of 0.13 is outside any acceptance significance I've ever seen. And the abstract concludes, "Overall effects were weak for both meta-analyses." $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2021 at 21:19

This sounds like a method described in the following paper as second chance grading. The logistics are slightly different (less frequent exams with groups of topics, as opposed to weekly quizzes) but the main idea is similar.

An internet search for "second chance grading" didn't reveal much beyond this paper, but perhaps the term will start to be used for things like this. As one commenter said, "Not every practice in college teaching has a formal identity or name."

Source: Oscar E. Fernandez (2020) Second Chance Grading: An Equitable, Meaningful, and Easy-to-Implement Grading System that Synergizes the Research on Testing for Learning, Mastery Grading, and Growth Mindsets, PRIMUS, DOI: 10.1080/10511970.2020.1772915

Link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511970.2020.1772915

The image shown here is from that paper. (It's paywalled but FYI: MAA members have access to all PRIMUS issues.)

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ I'd be compelled to warn readers that the linked paper is predicated on growth-mindset theory, which has failed many large-scale replication attempts (see elsewhere for references). $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2021 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ Neither of your points are true. The paper isn't predicated on growth mindset theory, and growth mindset theory has been widely replicated. Its effects are not large, however. $\endgroup$
    – edtechdev
    Mar 11, 2021 at 18:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.