Entropic: If you really want to follow the laws of thermodynamics in your classroom, this is the way to go. Start out the class with a certain number of points distributed in a very structured, organized and centralized way. For example, give ten percent of your class 100 percent and everybody else zero percent. Then every interaction that happens in the class—every question they ask, every lecture, assignment or assessment you give, every time one of them shows up for office hours, every time they talk to each other—increase the chaos of the grades. Sure the students’ grades might tend toward this barely differentiable background noise somewhere far south of 30 percent, but it will really get the lesson across. And as a plus, every time a student drops, since grades can neither be created or destroyed, some lucky kid might just inherit enough points to get an A.
Adjectival Assessment: If your class isn’t particularly “numbers friendly” you might consider just ditching the numerical stratification all together. Apply creative adjectives to your students’ work and use those as your grades. The best part about this system is that it allows for a much broader and more expressive scale. A boring old “55” could never express the Lilac-ness of Norm’s paper. Students might be a bit confused, but they’ll come around when they find out that they can get a “Supercalifragalisticexpialadocious” on their transcript.
Evolution: It might take a while, but this is a surefire way to raise your class’ average grade. After each assignment, kill off the bottom fraction of the class and force the remainder into pseudo-arbitrary mating pairs. Wait until their offspring reach an appropriate level of maturation and give them the new assignment. Repeat this until you have enough assignments for a respectable gradebook, then award final grades based on lineage and pedigree. You’ll have the best students in any college, guaranteed.
Whose grade is it anyway: This is for those classes where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. Award arbitrary points to students when they make you laugh, bring up an valid and poignant point that you don’t know how to answer, or do a particularly good job on the weekly “things you can say to a Kant scholar but not a women’s and gender studies major.” This method might not provide the most solid results but you’ll have the most fun.
Tournament Class: If you’re teaching a weed-out class and the Evolution Grading scale is just a little too slow for you, try taking a page from the sports world and set up a tournament. Each assignment is a head-to-head competition between two students. Winner takes an A, loser gets an F. (And for those unsatisfactory ties, give both of them a C.) At the end of the season—err, semester—give everybody a final grade based on their win record and go home! Best class ever!