Grading (again)

by Mike Gleicher on April 12, 2015

Yes, I am aware that I haven’t given you much information about specific grades for this class. I apologize. It’s a challenge.

Earlier posts should have given you a pretty strong sense of how we will grade.

But now as we near the end, I can be a little more specific…

The exact numbers below might be tuned a little – but probably not much. If you’re curious, by the standards below the median grade for both the 638 and 838 sections is an A, and in general, the grades in this class are much higher than normal. I am OK with that, since I am quite impressed with the work that people have done this semester. And, I appreciate that people have put up with the experimental nature of the class, and have had patience with our inability to be clear about grading.

The components of your grade:

  • Online discussions (including readings and 838-only assingments). There will be about 20 of these total (more for 838 students).
  • Seek and Finds. There should be 13 of these total. The last 4 will be graded a little more carefully than the first 9.
  • Two design assignments and one data assignment.
  • In-class assignments. There will be about a dozen of these total by the end.

There are two independent questions: how will we evaluate each part, and how will we combine these evaluations to form a final grade.

If you want to know how your various counts stand, you can ask Alper.

Considering the parts

Each of the parts is different.

The in-class assignments are really a proxy for your general attendance and engagement in class. It’s more than just showing up (since if you show up and just look at Facebook, it might be worse than not showing up). We’ll use the in-class assignments as a proxy measurement for general attendance/engagement. If you did the ICEs, then you were there and engaged. There’s also a sampling issue: we only check this a small number of times. (and the measurement is imprecise).

We will only score ICEs check/no-check.

We’ll use the count of number you missed as a way of guessing at your overall class attendance. Say you missed N ICEs. At best, you missed this many classes total. Worst case, this is representative of your attendance in general (the percentage is about the same). (the real worst case is that these are the only classes you came to – but we’re more optimistic than that). Note: if we catch you cheating (e.g. having someone turn in something with your name on to try and get counted when you weren’t there), that is academic misconduct, and we will act accordingly.

  • If you missed more than 3 ICEs – you cannot get an A for the class.
  • If you missed more than 5 ICEs – your grade is reduced by 1/2 step.
  • If you missed more than 8 ICEs – your grade is reduced by a whole step.

The first 9 seek-and-finds (before break) were not graded consistently, so we’ll treat them check/no-check. In fact, one of them wasn’t even required. The later seek-and-finds will have an actual grading rubric, so we’ll count them as discussion assignments.

  • If you missed more than 2 seek and finds – you cannot get an A for the class.
  • If you missed more than 3 seek and finds – your grade is reduced by 1/2 step.
  • If you missed more than 6 seek and finds – your grade is reduced by a whole step.

Note: the seek and finds / ICEs are penalties that get applied after we figure out what your grade would be.

Discussions are the main thing we have to grade. However, the scoring system doesn’t give us very much precision (especially at the high end).

To figure out your discussion grade, we’ll drop the lowest 2 scores (so if you missed two, it doesn’t matter). And then quantize people as follows:

  • Almost always 4 or above – either an A or an AB
  • Usually 4 or above, almost always 3 or above – possibly an A (unlikely), probably an AB
  • Sometimes 4 or above, almost always 3 or above – AB or B
  • Usually a 3 or above – B
  • Median below 3 – less than a B

Note that there is some wiggle room in there: “almost always” probably means like 80% of the time or more, but we aren’t specific. “Usually” could mean the median is at the level, but again, we give ourselves wiggle room. This allows us to include factors like our subjective impressions, what level you are at (638/838).

Also, note that these gives a grade range: to decide where your grade is within the range, we will look more closely at your work. Remember, we didn’t consistently give 5s (although, if you did get 5s, that’s a clue that we’re likely to think highly on a second pass). We won’t read everything – we’ll do a little sampling, and try to decide where in the grade range you stand.

We’ll take your level (638/838) into account when figuring this grade. If you’re a 638 student, you’ll probably score at the high end of the range.

The Design/Data assignments are scored on a 20 point scale, and a 10 point scale for the quality of the critiques. There will be a scale for each. I will make a base scale, and we will adjust downwards if the grading was harsher (that is, if everyone gets an A great, but at a minimum 25% of the people should get As).

Your “letter grade” will be 1/2 of the discussion grade, 1/4 of the design data grade, and 1/4 of whichever you did better at.

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