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Expert TA Blog
Partnering with Physics educators to foster innovative teaching.

TRUE Partial Credit Grading with Expert TA

Many instructors feel online homework systems are lacking the ability to grade student work similarly to how they grade a traditional paper-based assignment. The truth is: they are right. Historically, online homework is a time-saver for instructors with heavy schedules and large classes.

What if the use of online homework finally offered the best of both worlds where quality of grading didn’t have to be sacrificed for time saved? What if an instructor could trust an online homework system to handle grading similarly to their own personal philosophical approach? For example, an instructor may want students to earn partial-credit grades when they show correct problem-solving steps leading to an incorrect final answer due to a small miscalculation along the way.

Expert TA set out to be a unique homework system from the beginning, focusing on specific challenges instructors have with online homework systems. Through research involving student interactions and driven by instructor feedback, Expert TA developed a grading system equipped to provide intelligent partial-credit grades on their behalf. While we understand that no current technology is a perfect substitute for an instructor’s thoughtful hand-graded approach, our sophisticated method helps bring online homework a little closer.

When grading by hand, an instructor will typically analyze the work done by each student — not just the final answer. The instructor assesses free-body diagrams, and intermediate symbolic steps, rather than simply checking a final numeric answer. These are vital components in identifying students’ misconceptions and determining how much credit the student will earn collectively.

These problem-solving steps are not usually captured in most online homework systems. The norm is to limit a question to only a single part with a right or wrong numeric or multiple-choice response. In Expert TA a large number of problems contain multiple steps, asking students to express their understanding of key symbolic relationships before they input their final numerical answer.

As students work through these multi-step problems, they receive intelligent feedback to guide them. If a successful outcome is not reached for any given part, our math engine determines if the answer matches our data-mined list of anticipated wrong answers in any mathematical format, issuing a partial credit grade for the student if it does. You can read in more detail here about how Expert TA Analytics makes this possible.

Here is a sample of a problem with partial credit grading and feedback.Partial Credit Screen Shot.png

Instructors want students to not only earn credit but also learn from their mistakes. With Expert TA, they get both. This works to enhance students’ problem solving abilities and also provide a fair assessment of their work with feedback on how to limit future mistakes.

We want instructors to have more confidence in online homework. True partial credit grading is just one step Expert TA takes toward a hand-graded approach in our online system. No more simply “right” or “wrong.” 


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Formed from the belief that a homework system should help instructors teach and students learn, Expert TA harnesses the power of technology to encourage practice during homework, while also giving meaningful feedback to both instructors and students. The Expert TA blog was created to serve as a hub of information to help educators track and discuss trends in education, software and student performance.

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