Brian Bennett

Linking Outcomes to Assignments with Python

Blog Post created by Brian Bennett on May 29, 2019

I'm trying to make standards-based grading more approachable for my teachers. When I was teaching full time, I held to Frank Noschese's Keep It Simple philosophy. Single standards correlate to single assignments that are scored as pass/fail. Now, I averaged these out on a weighted scale to calculate a 0-100 grade, but that's for another post

 

Using Canvas, I was able to set up a functional reassessment strategy to aggregate demonstrations of proficiency.

The Learning Mastery Gradebook in Canvas does not translate anything into the traditional gradebook. This mean that every week or so, I would have to open the Mastery report alongside the traditional gradebook and update scores line by line. This was tedious and prone to error.

 

Using the Canvas API and a MySQL database, I put together a Python web app to do that work for me. The idea is that a single outcome in a Canvas course is linked with a single assignment to be scored as a 1 or 0 (pass/fail) when a mastery threshold is reached.

 

The App

Users are logged in via their existing Canvas account using the OAuth flow. There they are shown a list of active courses along with the number of students and how many Essential Standards are currently being assessed (ie, linked to an assignment).

 

Teacher Dashboard

The teacher dashboard

 

 

Single Course

In the Course view, users select which grading category will be used for the standards. Outcomes are pulled in from the course and stored via their ID number. Assignments from the selected group are imported and added to the dropdown menu for each Outcome.

 

Users align Outcomes to the Assignment they want to be updated in Canvas when the scores are reconciled. This pulls live from Canvas, so the Outcomes and Assignments must exist prior to importing. As Assignments are aligned, they're added to the score report table.

 

Score Reports

Right now, it defaults to a 1 or 0 (pass/fail) if the Outcome score is greater than or equal to 3 (out of 4). All of the grade data is pulled at runtime - no student information is ever stored in the database. The Outcome/Assignment relationship that was created tells the app which assignment to update for which Outcome.

When scores are updated, the entire table is processed. The app pulls data via the API and compares the Outcome score with the Assignment grade. If an Outcome has risen above a 3, the associated Assignment is toggled to a 1. The same is true for the inverse: if an Outcome falls below a 3, the Assignment is toggled back to a 0.

 

I have mixed feelings about dropping a score, but the purpose of this little experiment is to make grade calculations and reconciliation between Outcomes and Assignments much more smooth for the teacher. It requires a user to run (no automatic updates) so grades can always be updated manually by the teacher in Canvas. Associations can also be removed at any time.

 

Improvements

To speed up processing, I use a Pool to run multiple checks at a time. It can process a class of ~30 students in under 10 seconds. I need to add some caching to make that even faster. This does not split students into sections, either. 

 

I've started turning this into an LTI capable app which would make it even easier for teachers to jump in. If you're a Python developer, I would really appreciate some code review. There is definitely some cleanup to be done in the functions and documentation and any insight on the logic would be great.

 

The source for the project is on GitHub.

Outcomes