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Despite best attempts, grading can be very subjective when it comes to determining quality. For certain courses, the process is just as important as the product, but often the grade is based mainly on the quality of the product and doesn’t take the labor or process into account. One alternative to standard grade systems is labor-based grading or contract grading. In this system, students meet certain requirements to earn a certain grade. If students meet the criteria for the assignment, it counts toward the contract. If not, they can revise, reflect and resubmit. With this format, students can focus on the process without constantly thinking about having to get 100% on every task in order to achieve their desired grade. When students miss out on a concept (as embedded criteria for an assignment), there is a pathway for metacognitive learning through reflection.

Labor-based grading was applied to a lab section of EGG 202, a new course that counts for first-year seminar credits in the College of Engineering. This course is oriented toward projects and skills (i.e., no exams scheduled). Students need time to get used to this new grading format, but they appreciate the flexibility of the grading system (i.e., being able to resubmit if they “miss the mark” on the first try). In addition, this grading system reduces the penalty for students who come in less prepared than their peers. While they are still required to achieve the same criteria for an assignment, they can take advantage of the resubmittal process if they don’t reach the minimum criteria on the first try. Students self-reported that contract grading and rubrics caused them to reflect on assignments before submitting them and to recognize their ability to improve and grow as a learner.

Publisher Location

Las Vegas (Nev.)

Publication Date



UNLV Office of Faculty Affairs




Labor-based grading; Contract grading; Specification grading; Engineering


Education | Engineering Education | Higher Education | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

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519 KB


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The Return of Labor-based Grading Contracts