Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students complain about grades.

Students often have difficulty accurately evaluating their own work against a standard.

As a result, they may overestimate the quality of their work. This is more likely to be a problem for the most poorly performing students, who may be lacking in metacognitive skills. Furthermore, if students only have access to their own work, it can be difficult for them to understand how a paper, answer or performance could be better or different.


Provide sample questions that represent the exam format.

Have students evaluate their own performance and then give them feedback on how their evaluation matched and failed to match your assessment. By explicitly comparing the criteria and standards that you use to grade with the ones that they use, you can help students learn how to assess themselves more accurately and hence monitor and improve their work before turning it in.

Give students practice assessing their own or a peer’s work using a rubric.

For each component on the rubric, require students to underline or highlight where the component appears in the work, and map it to the appropriate standard of performance. This will force students to explicitly monitor and evaluate work using your criteria and give them a better sense of where their grade comes from.

Provide annotated examples that contrast sample student work with a “model” solution.

Post multiple samples of students work (or examples that you create yourself) that represent different levels of performance. Include comments that highlight why a component or the piece in general deserved the score it received. For each level or grade of work, try to provide multiple examples to help students see how the criteria can be met in various ways and help them generalize the criteria to their own work.

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