Abstract

Competency-based grading (CBG) can take different forms in different subject areas. We present a method for implementing CBG in a biomechanics course with nine primary learning objectives. Competency in each learning objective is measured by the student's ability to correctly answer knowledge questions and solve analytical problems in the field of biomechanics. The primary goal of implementing CBG was to provide more opportunities for lower-performing students to learn the material and to demonstrate that learning. To determine the efficacy of CBG to improve student learning, the primary measure was course grade distribution before and after implementation of CBG. The course grade distribution data indicated that CBG has primarily helped midperforming students to improve their grades. Because of the limitations of course grades as a measure of learning, we also performed analysis of student performance on successive attempts which indicated initial and secondary attempts are best, with student success declining on subsequent attempts. Anecdotally, many students improved performance, and thus their grade, on the (optional) final exam attempts. Limitations of the study include the limited course offerings with CBG (three), and that effects of COVID-19 may be confounding CBG data. Also, the approach places nearly all the grade on quizzes or exams. However, the approach could be modified to include homework grades, projects, and the like. Overall, the student learning in this course and implementation appears to be only positively affected, so this approach appears to have benefits in a biomechanics course.

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