Updated Grading Policy

The Grading page describes the class policy. This update is intended to make some elements more specific by clarifying how the rules will be interpreted. In all cases, these are meant to be in the students advantage.

Grading in class is intended to be “holistic” - at the end, we consider everything, and make judgments based all of the information available to us. Students are more than numbers.

However, we also appreciate that students need to predict how well they are doing, especially if they are at risk of getting an undesirable grade.

These clarifications are designed to provide a lower bound on your grade: you can compute the minimum grade that you can expect, given the numerical information. Your actual grade, which can consider more factors, may be higher.

The Actual Changes

Short version, details and explanation below

  1. We will allow students to drop F grades as part of the “drop 2” workbook grading, however, there may be a small penalty.
  2. Your workbook grade can be estimated by the simple formula, but this is not accurate.
  3. If you numerical grade is passing, we will consider your situation carefully.
  4. The penalties for not doing surveys and the bonuses for participation are explained.

Grading formula

The formula on Grading still holds.

  1. 65% - workbooks grade
  2. 35% - exam grade
  3. subtract the penalty for missing surveys
  4. add any “bonuses” subjectively awarded by the course staff

Each of these are detailed below. #1 and #2 are both scores on the grading scale (see Grading). #3 and #4 are addition/subtractions to the score computed by the weighted average of #1 and #2.

1. Workbooks

There will be 11 workbooks (we skipped workbook #10), the 12th workbook graphics town counts twice, so we still end up with 12. According to Grading (numbers added so I can refer to them):

Your grade on the 12 workbooks. See Workbooks for details. Briefly: Your workbook grade combines (1) the basic grade, your bonus points and any artistic merit points (2) you have earned. The last workbook (12 - Graphics town) counts double and cannot be dropped. We will drop your lowest 2 non-F workbook scores. You must earn a passing grade on more than half of the workbooks in order to pass the class."

If you follow this formula in the simple manner (add basic and bonus points for each assignment and do drop-2 averaging) this gets you pretty close. You grade may be higher (because this under-weights bonus points), and will only be lower if you have really bad Fs on the ones you drop.

Some clarifications/modifications.

  1. I have not decided how to best combine regular and bonus points, given the variance in the number of bonus points. A simple version is to add basic and bonus points together for each - but this doesn’t value the bonus points enough. Think about this as a lower bound. A more likely outcome is to average the basic and bonus points separately, and then put them together.
  2. This year we did not separate artistic merit from other bonus points, they are all included in bonus points.
  3. Averaging: “drop your lowest 2 non-F workbook scores” - is simple, except if you have some low scores. If you have low scores, this is a bit harsh and hard to compute. So I am changing it in a way that should only help, and better fits the intent of the rule. We will drop the two lowest scores - even if they are Fs. However: we may assess another penalty (below) if it is a “really bad” F.
  4. Must pass half: this precludes students from “turning it around”. Usually this is not an issue: it is difficult to pass this class without passing the workbooks (exams do not count for enough). However, in the event that a student passes “numerically” (their final grade is passing), we will consider their situation carefully and may exempt them from this rule.

The big change is that we will allow you to drop F graded workbooks. However, if we drop an F score, and the assignment was not a “viable assignment” (e.g., you turned nothing in, or did not score any points beyond a blank page), we will impose a penalty (up to 2 points on your final average that includes the drop, per non-viable assignment).

Example: suppose a student gets 80s on all of their assignments except 1 that they didn’t turn in. Under the old rule, they could not drop the 0 - so their average would be 72 (9 *.8 / 10). Under the new scheme, we would drop the zero, but deduct a 2 point penalty, so their average would be 78. If the student had received a 50 on the assignment (an F, but at least they tried), we would not have assessed the penalty.

The “intent” of the original rule was to prevent students from skipping the “hard parts” of the class. Or, to stop working at the end. However, this rule penalized students who tried, but did badly. The new rule is more generous. Bigger changes in policy (that would better address the problem) cannot be implemented this late in the class. This change only helps people. (the penalty for getting an F is definitely less than averaging in an F).

2. Exams

The “change” here is that when the course policies were set, I did not know the format of the exams. I now know that we will keep the 2 pieces per mini-exam format.

The final exam will have 2 or 3 pieces. These pieces will count the same as the mini-exams. More details will be made available the last week of class.

Each exam piece counts the same. You “exam grade” is computed as the average of the pieces (8 or 9) - however, this is a lower bound. We may de-emphasize your lowest score (probably not fully drop the lowest score, but do something for people who messed up on a single piece).

If you are trying to estimate your grade, just average the pieces. This is a lower bound.

3. Surveys

The Grading page says “If you miss more than 2 quizzes/surveys you will be penalized. We may deduct 1 point for each you miss (beyond the first two).”

This deduction is made from your final score (after workbooks and exams are averaged).

If you’ve missed n>2 of the weekly surveys, we may deduct up to (n-2) points from your final grade. If you’re trying to estimate your grade, you can assume the worst - although in practice we probably won’t do the worst case.

4. Subjective Extra Points

The Grading page describes this part in terms of participation, which is difficult to quantify. It turns out that most students watch the lectures as BBCU recordings (or claim to), and we have no way to get statistics on this.

A better way to think about this: if you are 1-2 points away from a grade boundary, we will look for a reason to give you those points. No promises we will find one, but we will look.

If you’re trying to estimate your grade, you shouldn’t assume you will get any extra points.