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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sometimes I think vague is OK

Just to follow up on my earlier post about grading participation: I decided that contract grading was going a bit far and instead will have a chunk of the semester grade that is based largely on completing assignments, attending class and otherwise engaging in the behaviors that should lead students to do better on their other assignments anyway. Taking a cue from Lisa Lane, I'm calling that portion "Class Contribution" and I've purposely left it vague how that portion is scored. What I say in the syllabus is that this will be determined in part by the peer evaluations (from their teams), completion of all assignments and participation in class, which I will track with their responses to clicker questions. Specifically, the syllabus says:
Attendance and due dates: The team nature of this class requires you to be in class and to do your part as a member of your Team. This includes completing the individual component of Applications and submitting responses to clicker questions in class. These assignments will generally not be graded for content and they cannot be made up. However, you can miss up to two individual Applications without any impact on your grade; more than two missed assignments will reduce the Class Contribution portion of your final grade. Missing more than 10% of the clicker questions will also reduce your Class Contribution score (it should also be noted that missing class or any assignments could reduce your ability to make useful contributions to team discussions, which may then show up in the Peer Evaluation scores).

Class Contribution makes up 15% of the semester grade and I am purposely not assigning points to each assignment or clicker question. My thought is that if someone has done every assignment, attended almost every class, and gets solid evaluations from their teammates, then they will get the full 15%. If they have missed several assignments, skipped lots of classes and/or get low evaluations from their teammates, I have some flexibility in how much I lower this part of their grade.*

Because of my experience with my writing class (where a few students were still writing at a C level but got B's because of the way I assigned points for simply completing a number of things), I felt it was important for the Class Contribution portion of the grade to be worth enough that it 'matters' but not so much that it could mean someone gets a grade I don't feel comfortable with, given their grasp (or lack thereof) of the content of the course. So I settled on 15% as the weight after playing around with the numbers a bit - if someone has a solid C (75%) on everything else (tests and individual projects), then getting full credit for Class Contribution bumps them up to a C+, but not into the B range, which I can live with. Of course, hopefully if they are doing everything they need to get full credit for Class Contribution, then that will be reflected in their graded assignments but we'll see...

* There are also some good ideas about grading participation in this ProfHacker post.

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