Additional Information on Grading Policies
Summary:* The course front door provides a quick
summary of the weights of various components of the course.
The narrative on teaching and
learning provides some general perspectives on how I teach,
how I hope you learn, and how I grade. This document provides a bit
more detail on how I will be grading this particular class.
My experience shows that students who turn in work late learn
significantly less than students who turn material in on time.
(I'm not sure about cause and effect.) Hence, I strongly discourage
late assignments. Unless prior arrangements have been made, assignments
are due at the time stated on the homework assignment (typically 10:30
p.m. on Tuesday evenings). Late assignments are penalized approximately
the equivalent of one letter grade per day late (or fraction thereof).
Because I am concerned about your health and well being, I will waive
the late penalty if (1) you start the assignment at least three days
in advance of the due date; (2) you get to sleep by midnight the night
before the assignment is due; (3) you expend a reasonable amount of
effort to complete the assignment by midnight; (4) you turn in a note
attesting to facts (1), (2), and (3) when the assignment is due; and (5)
you talk to me ASAP about any problems you've had on the assignment.
If you are ill, I will make appropriate accommodations. Please let me
know as soon as possible if illness will make it difficult for you to
turn in an assignment on time. (And yes, I realize that it's not
always possible to do so in advance.)
Note that this policy only applies to homework assignments. It does
not apply to examinations.
Class Participation and Attendance
As I suggest in my statement on teaching
and learning, I don't think you learn the material as well if you
don't participate actively in the class. I also know that if you're not
here, you can't participate. Hence, a portion of your grade is based on
a combination of your participation and attendance.
*Because I do not want you to come to class when you are
ill (and likely to infect others), I excuse most absences due to
illness.* I also realize that there are other exceptional
circumstances, such as academic and athletic responsibilities that
call you away from Grinnell. If you provide appropriate notification,
I am likely to excuse such absences. However, I do expect you to limit
If you miss class for any reason, you are responsible for notifying me.
You may, but need not, specify the reason for the absence. I would
prefer that you notify me via email before the class period. If that
is not possible, you should notify me via email by 5 p.m. on the day
that you missed class. With very few exceptions, I will not excuse an
absence if you do not notify me of within this time frame. I expect
that you will notify me, even if your absence is unlikely to qualify
as an excused absence.
Students who regularly answer or ask questions and make comments in
class will receive a base grade of 90 for participation. Students
who make particularly good contributions are likely to receive a
higher grade. Students who do not contribute regularly or who make
comments that interfere with class are likely to receive a lower grade.
I scale your base participation grade based on your attendance.
If you have two or fewer unexcused absences or equivalent (each
excused absence counts as half an unexcused absence), I just use your
base grade. Otherwise, I scale your base grade by 1-((A-2)/8), where
A is the number of unexcused absences or equivalent. For example, if
you have the equivalent of four unexcused absences (say, two unexcused
absences and four excused absences), I will scale your base grade by
(1-(4-2)/8), or 0.75.
### Expected Absences
There are a variety of situations in which students should know
early in the semester that they will be missing classes later
in the semester. Two such situations are sporting events and
Every Grinnell College coach provides his, her, or zir players with
a list of expected absences at the beginning of the semester. I
expect you to share that list with me within the first three
weeks of the semester so that we may reach a mutual understanding
of how to balance the requirements of your sport with the requirements
of the course.
I encourage students who plan to observe religious holidays that
coincide with class meetings or assignment due dates to consult with
me in the first three weeks of classes so that we may reach a mutual
understanding of how you can meet the terms of your religious observance
and also the requirements for this course.
In other similar situations (that is, situations in which you should
know early in the semester about absences later in the semester), you
should also attempt to provide me with information early in the semester
so that we can reach an appropriate understanding.
We have tried a variety of strategies for homework in 151. This
semester, we will assign one homework per week, except in weeks in which
an exam or project is due. Almost all assignments (including most
examinations and projects) will be due at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night.
I have tried a variety of approaches to grading homework. I admit
to some fondness for an excellent/good/fair/poor (or
plus/check/minus/zero) scale, which looks at the big picture and not
niggling details. But I also like using a detailed rubric that covers
the various aspects of the assignment. I may experiment with
multiple approaches this semester.
Since different people have different opinions, I thought I should
let you know about my scale. Homework that is primarily correct will
earn you a good (or, sometimes, a "check"). Errors will
earn you a fair or poor. Significant errors may earn you a zero.
Failure to turn the assignment in will earn you a zero. Particularly
nice work will earn you a very good or excellent. At the end of the
semester, I will convert the symbols to a letter or numeric grade.
If your grades are mostly good, you will earn a B on the homework
component of your grade. Very good and excellent grades will increase
the letter grade. (Students who earn very good or excellent on at
least 1/4 on the assignments are likely to earn A's.) Fair or poor
grades will decrease the letter grade.
To help you monitor your learning, you will be required to complete
a "wrapper" for some assignments and many
examinations. After reading each assignment, but before sitting down
to undertake the assignment, you will complete a short survey that
asks you to estimate the amount of time you will need to complete the
assignment, and possibly answer some other questions. After you have
completed the assignment, you will report how long the assignment
actually took and reflect on any differences from your prediction.
My colleague Janet Davis tells me that evidence suggests that doing
such activities enhance learning.
Because students can often learn and accomplish more in teams,
I encourage collaboration on homework assignments. However, I've
also heard from many of our majors that they regretted always working
with the same people, and that they too often felt compelled to work
with friends. Hence, I will assign teams for most homework assignments.
I realize that not everyone wants to work with partners. I'll even
admit that when I was your age, I generally preferred to work alone.
Nonetheless, I know that working with others is an important skill,
and so I want you to give group assignments a try. After the first
few programming assignments I will give you the opportunity
to decide whether you want me to continue to assign you to a team or
whether you prefer to work alone.
Labs and Lab Writeups
The best way to learn is by doing. During most classes, you will work
through programming problems with an assigned partner. However, in
my experience, students do the work and then don't reflect back on
it. *I recommend that you take notes on what you've done
in lab to prepare for quizzes and exams.* Such notes are
particularly useful on exams, which are typically "open
To encourage you to think carefully about the material, for most labs
I will ask you to write up one or two exercises and submit them for
You and your lab partner(s) should generally plan to complete the
lab writeup together. However, in some cases you may decide to do
so individually. In either case, you should decide which by the end
of class. If you do the lab writeup on your own, you must acknowledge
your partner (any anyone else who gave you help) in your writeup.
Your writeup should include your solution to each assigned exercise.
If the exercise directs you to write Scheme code, include your Scheme
code. If the exercise directs you to find out what the output of
some expression is, copy and paste the output from the MediaScript
console. If the exercise asks a question or asks you to explain
something, write an answer in English. You do not need to copy
instructions or problem statements from the lab exercises into your
writeup, but do number your solutions.
You will submit your lab writeups via electronic mail to
Lab writeups are graded with an acceptable/unacceptable binary.
Your write is acceptable if it includes a solution or evidence of
serious effort for each assigned exercise. Your writeup is unacceptable
if it was not turned in, if there was no evidence of reasonable effort,
of if your answer is incorrect and you do not note that you realize
it is incorrect. If you were not able to complete an exercise because
of its difficulty, your work is still acceptable if you explain where
you got stuck and come talk to me to get help. So, in case it's not
clear, *every diligent student will earn full credit for
Lab writeups are due at the start of the first class that comes more
than a day after the lab is held. Writeups for Monday labs are due
at the start of class on Wednesday. Writeups for Tuesday labs are due
at the start of class on Friday. Writeups for Wednesday labs are also
due at the start of class on Friday. Writeups for Friday labs are
due at the start of class on Monday. You are, of course, encouraged
to do your writeups sooner than that, since many labs build upon the
previous day's lab.
When grading exams this semester, I will begin each student at 100
points and remove points for each error I encounter. When I encounter
something particularly exceptional, I may add points. I typically
guarantee minimum grades on examinations for students who spend a
reasonable amount of time on the exam and get a minimum number of
problems correct. (Warning: My view of "reasonable"
may be somewhat longer than your view.)