Faculty Publications & Research

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation


Presented at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education

Publication Date



Chemistry | Education | Educational Methods | Science and Mathematics Education


The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) requires all incoming students to complete a one-semester introductory chemistry course in their sophomore year – Scientific Inquiries in Chemistry (SI-Chem). This course has historically been taught using a traditional grading/assessment model, however, in the Spring of 2021, a switch was made to a specification-based grading system. One motivating factor in this decision is an institutional shift to an equity-focused grading approach, and an analysis of our historical assessment model indicated areas for improvement.

Our initial foray into specifications grading was during the Spring of 2021 semester, when all of our courses were taught synchronously via Zoom. During the return to in-person learning in the Fall of 2021, we continued utilizing the same model of specification grading. Throughout this shift, none of the course objectives, in-class delivery or activities were changed, except where necessitated by the online vs in-person format. The poster will explain the design approach in our specifications grading system in both formats, the main challenges and benefits of utilizing this new assessment model, impact on student grades, and the major takeaways moving forward.


This research was funded through an IMSA Academic Innovation Grant.



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