UW Continuum College Instructor Resources


Each participant in a UW PCE program will be graded in each course by standards established by the advisory board and/or instructors and approved by the academic units. For certificate courses, students must successfully complete all courses in the program to receive a certificate. Because certificate courses are often arranged sequentially and are normally offered only once each year, students are required to successfully complete all courses in the previous term before they advance to the next term.


Grade Submission and Grading Options

See this separate page for detailed information on how to conduct your grading and submit final grades for credit and non-credit courses, and sequential and non-sequential courses.


Why is grading important in a certificate program?

You might be wondering, “Do I really need to worry about grading if my course is offered successful/unsuccessful completion (S/NS)?” The answer is YES. Here are four reasons why having a system for grading, that is, a way of communicating the measure of student achievement, is important.

  1. When UW PCE awards a student a certificate at the end of a program, there is an assumption that the student has achieved an expected level of competence in relationship to the goals of the program.
  2. Current and/or future employers expect that the certificate awardee has met specified standards for the program and can demonstrate knowledge and/or skills.
  3. For students the certificate is the culminating feedback that they performed at acceptable levels as recognized by the field or industry.
  4. The content is sequenced in many certificate programs. If you are teaching in the first or second course, you need to be able to assure that the students have the sufficient knowledge and/or skills to move on to the next course.

For more information on grading, visit the UW PCE Grades page.


Should I consider attendance and class participation in my grade plan?

Eighty percent attendance of the class is necessary but not sufficient for earning Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) associated with the certificate program. You will want to track attendance, but ordinarily it is not part of the grading plan. If grading is about evaluating performance, attending class does not necessarily translate into a level of achievement. If your grading plan involves the assignment of points, you could give a few points for meeting the 80% level of attendance, but it should be a very small portion of the grade plan. Depending on the content of your course, class participation may be an appropriate way to assess student performance. However, it should not be the only way. If you use participation, keep weekly notes of the students’ involvement as it will be difficult to recall at the end of the course.


How do I develop a plan for grading a course in a certificate program where the grade is S/NS?

  1. Determine what to measure. Your objectives should help you answer this question. For example, if your course is responsible for addressing specific objectives in the entire program and/or ensuring certain competences, then the other instructors are counting on you to determine the students’ level of proficiency regarding these objectives.
  2. Decide on an acceptable level of performance regarding the objectives. Imagine that you are an employer interested in either promoting the individual earning the certificate or hiring the individual with the newly earned certificate. What level of performance would you expect from the individual? It is important that you and your colleagues who are teaching in the certificate program agree on what “satisfactory” performance looks like for the certificate program. The advisory board and your Program Manager can also help in determining what will count as satisfactory performance.   UW PCE recommends that you and your colleagues use criteria-referenced grading, that is, that achievement be measured in terms of specified standards. In a criteria-referenced grading system, there is a fixed performance level and it is possible for all students to receive a “satisfactory” grade. Students are not competing against each other.
  3. Create components to measure the acceptable level of performance. Given the variety of fields of study represented by the UW PCE programs, there is not one easy answer to the question of how to measure. Some instructors might find that weekly assignments or projects can be used as measures. Others might want to assign one large project or written paper. Still others might find that quizzes and exams can be used as ways to measure. Again, a conversation with your teaching colleagues and Program Managers will assist in developing appropriate measures.
  4. Determine weight and level of each grading component. One component can measure satisfactory performance for more than one objective or it may be necessary for several components to measure one objective. In any case, it is important that the weight of a component be proportional to the overall emphasis of the objective in the course. The components for measuring should also evaluate the students’ performance on different levels as outline in Bloom’s Taxonomy, that is, knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, syntheses and evaluation.
  5. Communicate the plan in your syllabus. Students need to know at the beginning of the course what is expected of them. Clarity in terms of when and how they will be evaluated and graded will enable them to become responsible for their own learning.


What are rubrics?

To assist you in evaluating assignments or exams, you might consider developing rubrics, a tool that you create to outline criteria for different levels of performance. If you are interested in learning more about rubrics, visit the Grading and Performance Rubric webpage from Carnegie Mellon University. You will also find some videos on rubrics below.


Resources for grading and rubrics

Everything you need to know about developing a grading plan for your course (well, almost). Hammons, J. O., & Barnsley, J. R. (1992).Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 3, 51-68

Grading and Feedback, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University

Grading Criteria and Rubrics, Brown University

Grading Student Work, Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University


Video Resources

Rubrics to Simplify Grading

Creating Rubrics