Mark Blair, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, rethought the role of tests in his course. The result has been a dramatic improvement in student engagement and learning.

Psychology, Cognitive Science, Teaching and Learning

Mastery grading: How one professor uses tests to help his students learn

November 27, 2017

By Mark Bachmann, Teaching and Learning Centre

Mark Blair (associate professor, Psychology) has been teaching COGS 100, a cognitive sciences Breadth course, to roughly 100 students per semester for the past 12 years. A review of class results over the past few years convinced him that students weren’t learning as effectively as they could. Grades were static or even declining, and the practice quizzes he gave to students to prepare them for tests didn’t seem to make much difference. In fact, when he repeated quiz questions on his tests, students often responded with the same wrong answers both times. His observations led him to reconsider the way he handles assessment, and this fall he is trying a different approach called “mastery grading.”