# 0. At #MAAthfest this past August, Drew Lewis asked, “How can we make sure we are providing adequate opportunities for **all** our students to demonstrate mastery?“

This year’s MAAthfest was held in Denver, Colorado from August 1st through August 4th. I went, I had a great time, and I want to tell you about some of the things I learned. While there, I presented twice: once as an invited panelist for Project NExT and then as a speaker in the Special Session on #MasteryGrading. Info about my talks is available here in my blog post called “MAAthfest 2018“.

Now I hope to give you a quick summary of some of the many great take-aways from the rest of the #MasteryGrading session.

# 1. Many of us noted that Mastery Grading reduces stress levels, both for the instructors and the students.

Chris Lee (Roanoke College) finds that mastery based grading shows tremendously positive impact on student stress levels. pic.twitter.com/JX9LQEUz2j

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 2, 2018

# 2. It’s hard to get by on a partial credit strategy. Mastery Grading holds students accountable for their own learning.

Jane Zimmerman (Michigan State) got student feedback of: “[SBG] forces you to actually learn. There is accountability built into it.” #sblchat pic.twitter.com/LHylFfmYEq

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 2, 2018

# 3. Many of us moved toward Mastery Grading after spending a long time really considering questions like “Why do we assign grades?” and “What do we want grades to tell us?”

Anil Venkatesh (Ferris State University) asks us, “What do grades communicate?”

Such an important question. #sblchat #MAAthfest pic.twitter.com/1A5IXsNmp1

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 2, 2018

# 4. I really like, respect, and enjoy these people.

We didn’t spend the *entire* time working. We also had shared some great meals:

#MAAthfest Mastery Grading lunch! @Thalesdisciple @mkjanssen @DrChadWiley @siwelwerd @StevenXClontz – did I miss anyone? pic.twitter.com/sgNC42b9ld

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

# 5. Traditional Grading expects all students to learn material at the same pace, but Mastery Grading allows learners to find their own path.

Jason Elsinger (Florida Southern) is using #masterygrading and #SBG to track student learning throughout a semester using growth curves. Work done with @siwelwerd — #MAAthfest pic.twitter.com/ndtcKZ6aUx

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

# 6. Mastery Grading really changes the way you write questions. If your goal is for students to change how they answer questions, sometimes you have to change what you’re asking them.

Justin Wright (Plymouth State) is writing really great “easy hard” questions that illuminate student understandings and misunderstandings in #SBG. #MAAthfest #calculus #calculus3 pic.twitter.com/GmNkBxcCZC

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

# 7. In Traditional Grading, instructors give students points. In Mastery Grading, students have accountability for gaining and then displaying knowledge.

Sharon Lanaghan and Kristen Stagg (Cal State: Dominguez Hills) have a goal to hold students accountable for mastering material in calculus & use #SBG to meet this goal. #masterygrading #MAAthFest #sblchat pic.twitter.com/vmLIdFlvgM

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

# 8. There are many different ways to implement Mastery Grading. The real challenge is finding the one that works best for you, your courses, and your students.

Ten minutes into his Mastery Grading talk, now John Ross (Southwestern University) now tells us he’s only kinda sorta sure he’s doing mastery grading. — ? now you tell me! pic.twitter.com/3H97ZBk2fN

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

I’m excited to read an upcoming issue of PRIMUS (Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies) devoted to Mastery Grading. Submissions are due October 15th, 2018 and more information is available here.

# 9. In all learning, there’s struggle. Mastery Grading supports and encourages students through the struggle.

Now a talk by Austin Mohr (Nebraska Wesleyan University) is giving a #MasteryGrading talk. He’s another @UofSCMath PhD (2013), like me (2009)! #gamecocks pic.twitter.com/Z5DNgmKNCi

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

“Students are growing if and only if they are struggling.” -Austin Mohr #MAAthfest pic.twitter.com/GsknyDoSd8

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

Austin added, “Assessment should guide students toward **productive struggle**” and I *really* like this quote. On Deadlines, he also gave us two pieces of important advice:

“-All deadlines must extend to end of semester. ?

-Having deadlines extend to end of semester is horrible idea.?”

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

# 10. Mastery Grading allows a path for improvement and success for all students, while still keeping clear, high expectations for learning.

Bevin Maultsby (NC State) shared with us course grade distributions for students in a course on Matlab, a computer programming language. Over 60% of her students earned As! So impressive.

Wow, also this grade distribution is fantastic! Over 60% of students earned As. I would love to put together a course where that’s where my students landed. ? pic.twitter.com/OkMEs2km2o

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

# 11. Some adaptations of Mastery Grading work well in project-based courses, courses with proofs, etc.

Chad Wiley (Emporia State University) told us about his use of specifications grading, and I’m hoping to adapt some specs-style setup in my upcoming “Math for Teachers” course that starts in October.

And now @DrChadWiley is telling us about #specsgrading ! I think he’s the first to tell us about that setup so far…#masterygrading pic.twitter.com/rntJ1b7auq

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

If you’re wondering about the difference between standards-based grading and specifications-based grading, Joshua Bowman (Pepperdine University) really summed it up well:

“Standards reflect content. Specifications reflect activity.” – Joshua Bowman (@Thalesdisciple )#MasteryGrading #sblchat #sbg

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 4, 2018

# 12. Common benefits of Mastery Grading include sustained student effort, clearer learning objectives, and changes in conversations with students.

We had a great three-presenter talk about #SBG happening at three different institutions:

Here are “Common Benefits of Using #SBG” by Megan Selbach-Allen (Stanford), Sarah Greenwald and Jill Thomley (App State), and Amy Ksir (US Naval Academy). #MasteryGrading #MAAthFest #growthmindset pic.twitter.com/3CIpAQPxFh

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

I really need to look back on this list of “**14 Characteristics for Evaluating Grading Systems**” by Linda Nilson.

And here’s their assessment of their assessment. Or maybe it’s (their assessment)^2? pic.twitter.com/qpaJzd0tkQ

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 3, 2018

# 13. The Mastery Grading community has begun gathering powerful data about student learning, and we’re seeing that Mastery Grading allows for students to be successful even with differentiated pacing of their learning.

Drew Lewis (South Alabama) had a really amazing slide called “A tale of two students” and I am committed to generating such graphs for my own students this semester:

Now @siwelwerd is telling us a tale of two students in his #MasteryGrading class.#MAAthfest #sbg #sblchat pic.twitter.com/cD4JwCqYfM

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 4, 2018

**Honestly, if I had to pick one slide that has stuck with me daily since MAAthfest, it’s Drew’s graph of the learning trajectories of two different students. If we want all our students to have the opportunity to be successful, we must construct our courses that allows for differentiated learning trajectories. **

# 14. Most University grade systems are already built with Mastery vocabulary in their grading scales.

Rebecca Gasper (@randomcashew) points out that universities are already using mastery vocabulary in their descriptions of letter grades. Are we making these clear to students? #MasteryGrading #MAAthFest pic.twitter.com/KtxiLQdNg5

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 4, 2018

# 15. Occasionally I missed Tweeting great stuff.

There are several other talks I don’t have archived on Twitter. Joshua Bowman gave a great talk about his years of experience using standards-based grading. His work was what originally inspired me to make the Mastery Grading jump in my own courses in 2013-2014.

Steven Clontz gave some really great practical tips (and I was too busy taking notes to tweet them!). Thankfully, he did that part himself:

In case I managed to say something interesting at #MAAthFest this week, info on all my workshops/presentations may be found at https://t.co/EvsrzHRuGA

— Steven Clontz (@StevenXClontz) August 4, 2018

I wasn’t able to attend David Clark’s (from GVSU) presentation when he won the Alder Award, but here’s what the MAA tweeted:

@dccmath @GVSU highlighted the value of productive failure at today’s Alder Awards Session at MAA #MAAthFest. pic.twitter.com/4F2M4Lq9jn

— MAA (@maanow) August 3, 2018

# 16. Outside of Mastery Grading, I was inspired and found joy in several other places.

- Talitha Washington’s Invited Address, “The Relationship between Culture and the Learning of Mathematics” was inspiring.

The amazing @doctor_talitha giving the Leitzel Lecture @maanow #MAAthFest – “We see the world as we are.” pic.twitter.com/2lpK2un4XP

— David Kung (@dtkung) August 4, 2018

“How do we create courses and learning ecosystems that support students to take risks to engage in mathematical discourse?”

Such an important question. #MAAthfest pic.twitter.com/drMEqsedaV

— Dr. Kate Owens (@katemath) August 4, 2018

Her slides are available here, courtesy of the MAA.

- I went to Emily Riehl’s talk in the “Category Theory for All” session and her talk was
*amazing*.

Today @ 3:45-4:20pm in @DrEugeniaCheng‘s “Category Theory for All” session @maanow #MAAthFest we’ll prove a x (b + c) = a x b + a x c via a roundabout method that takes us on a tour through several deep ideas including categorification, universal properties, and the Yoneda lemma.

— Emily Riehl (@emilyriehl) August 4, 2018

I mentioned to a colleague here what I had learned about category theory and it turns out one of our graduate students at the College of Charleston is writing a masters thesis in this area. I was invited to join his thesis committee, so now I’m going to have the opportunity to learn a lot more. Emily’s talk reminded me of some of the things I love about universal algebra. - One of my best friends from childhood was able to fly to Denver to spend some time with me, and her company was the best gift. Also, this was my first trip away from my three children — ever! — and by the time she got there, I was hug-starved. So great to have someone to offer a hug (and a hundred laughs) each day.

Had an amazing time with @katemath in Denver. Met some smart mathematicians, crashed a super interesting conference session about diversity in mathematics, and had an overall great trip.

— Jessica Z Crawford (@JZ_Crawford) August 5, 2018

See you at MAAthfest 2019.