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Grading Remotely for Non-core Classes

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

The abrupt shift to remote learning presents unique grading challenges for teachers of electives and “specials” like art, music, physical education, and technology. Core academic courses often have clear right and wrong answers that simplify grading and assessments.

However, evaluating more hands-on, exploratory non-core classes digitally requires creativity and adaptability. In this post, we’ll explore effective strategies for grading remotely in arts, music, PE, STEM, and other vital enrichment subjects.

Conducting Remote Grading for Non-core Classes, using an open laptop displaying the grading process.

Prioritizing Engagement Over Perfection

Unlike core math or literacy standards, non-core classes focus more on experimentation, expression, and exploration. Remote environments constrain these activities, so expectations should shift accordingly:

Focus grading on participation, effort, and growth rather than precise skill mastery.

For non-core classes, participation and effort should be weighted more heavily in grades than precise skill mastery. Look at assignment completion rates, number of drafts or practice attempts, and timestamps as indicators of participation.

Track effort through metrics like time spent rather than judging just the final output. Review progress holistically across the term versus isolating performance on discrete assignments. Value a student's willingness to experiment and think creatively more than technical perfection.

Recognize limitations of at-home materials and tools. Assess learners’ willingness to think creatively more than perfection.

In remote environments, teachers must recognize that students likely lack ideal art supplies, instruments, fitness gear, technology tools and other resources for non-core classes readily available in school settings. Encourage students to work creatively with any household objects accessible to them, rather than expecting exemplary outputs.

Focus assessment more on evaluating resourcefulness, creative problem solving skills, and effort to make do, rather than the level of perfection or polish on assignments. Provide flexibility on requirements and goals based on each student's unique at-home situation.

Provide flexibility on assignment formats and modes of submission based on student resources.

Consider allowing students to submit photos, videos, scans, or other visual representations of physical work products where beneficial rather than strictly formatted digital files. Be open to accepting submissions in a diverse range of document formats like Google Docs, PDFs, PowerPoint slides, etc.

Offer alternate options like oral exams for students lacking technology access or skills. Adapt to support new media types for submissions that provide more students accessibility based on their remote resources.

Emphasize self-reflection and progress more than benchmarks.

Have students complete self-evaluation surveys or written reflections judging their own effort, participation and growth against personal goals. Compare current capabilities and outputs to past work to highlight development and progress made.

Use rubrics and questionnaire tools to help students honestly gauge their confidence and comfort levels with skills. Recognize and reward incremental improvements that show practice and hard work pay off over time through enhanced capabilities.

Creatively Adapting Hands-On Activities

Certain non-core activities simply can’t be replicated fully at home. Teachers should reimagine curriculum with remote accessibility in mind. As recommended in this article on adapting art lessons remotely, assign art projects incorporating common household objects to work around limits of specialized tools.

Similarly, have PE students self-assess fitness progress using exercise logs since they lack gym equipment, as outlined in this guide to modifying PE for remote learning. For music, teachers can guide rhythm exercises like clapping to maintain active skill development without instruments and band equipment, per NAFME's guidance on teaching music remotely.

Across subjects, the goal is meaningful engagement through creativity and flexibility, not perfect simulations of hands-on lessons.

Leveraging Multimedia and Digital Tools

Multimedia assignments allow authentic skills practice:

  • Have students submit videos of speeches, music performances, physical exercises, or demonstrating projects.

  • Use FlipGrid for video discussion responses to assess communication skills, as recommended in this article on using FlipGrid.

  • Instruct art students to photograph and submit works digitally for virtual galleries.

  • Evaluate knowledge application through student-created online posters, infographics, cartoons, blogs, etc.

Optimizing multimedia tools enables authentic skills practice and assessment remotely.

Focusing Feedback on Growth

Resist extensive correction in favor of supportive feedback:

  • For art assignments, avoid harsh criticism and praise creative risk-taking efforts.

  • On physical exercise logs, reinforce consistency and goal-setting more than technique critiques, as suggested by tips on giving effective feedback remotely.

  • Stress vocal courage on digitally submitted music performances over precision.

  • Note research and critical thinking displayed in project work even if execution is imperfect.

The focus should be nurturing continued progress over perfection.

Fostering Connections and Collaboration

Increase opportunities for peer interactions and teamwork:

  • Use video breakout rooms to enable live peer feedback on speeches or music.

  • Create discussion boards for photography students to comment on each other’s submitted photos.

  • Assign collaborative music playlists, art collages, or technology projects. Assess team contributions.

Student commentary and evaluations provide additional perspectives, as this article on grading for equity remotely explores.


Grading objectively for enriching non-core classes during remote instruction requires recalibrating expectations and employing creative adaptations. Prioritize participation over perfection. Leverage multimedia and digital tools for authentic skills assessments. Focus feedback on growth and raise engagement through collaboration. While remote contexts present obstacles, teachers can still foster impactful non-core instruction.

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