Abstract: Mastery grading is an approach to grading in which students are assigned term grades based on whether they meet certain enumerated objectives, rather than accumulating points. In this note, I describe my experiences using a mastery system, which I call techniques grading, which applies the insights behind the standards-based and specifications grading flavors of mastery grading to a proof-intensive course. In techniques grading, each objective assesses, in a binary (pass/fail) way, whether a student has mastered a specific proof technique.
I describe my implementation of this system in a transitions course and an undergraduate real analysis course. I discuss how the system works: how I developed the grading objectives, how individual assignments are assessed, and the collation of each student’s work into a final portfolio. I provide a theoretical assessment of techniques grading within the mastery grading framework, and some evidence from student surveys and my own impressions that the system meets its goals: improving the quality of student work; increasing student satisfaction; reducing grade-grubbing; and instilling mindfulness, good work practices, and pride.
Keywords: specifications grading, transitions, standards based grading, proofs, mastery grading