Wednesday, November 5, 2014

TBT - Midterm Grades - for the Record

I posted this on Blackboard before posting midterm grades.  Since I rely more on commenting papers and observing process and discussion, the numerical values in Blackboard are only a part of the whole picture.  As frequently happens, some who were doing very well were in a panic over what appeared to be poor numbers and others who weren't doing much seemed oblivious.  I wanted to define and clarify my grading practice in my own mind as well as clear up any misunderstandings among the students.

Midterm grades will be posted on WebAdvisor soon.

Remember, the midterm grade is a “snapshot” of your work as of October 10.  It is intended as an evaluation of what you have done so far, and does not stay on your transcript once the final grade for the course is entered in December.  It gives a very general idea of your work, including participation, for the first half of the semester.  Please don’t stress over the difference between a B+ and an A-, or a B and a B+.  My advice for everyone, no matter what your grade, is to build on what you did in the first half and stretch yourself intellectually a little more with each discussion, assignment, reading, or project.

The midterm grade is based on what you did (the numerical part for informal writing) and how you did it (based on the grades for Wes Moore and the Personal Success Plan, the comments on the Individual paper, your self-assessment, and my observation of group and whole-class participation).  I used the Course Rubric and the percentages we agreed upon when revising the syllabus.  There is a subjective component to this, as there would be with grading papers or creative projects.  I have participated in teaching and learning workshops on grading, and found that I tend to be in the middle – not an excessively hard or easy grader.

I do not “curve” (which is only relevant to testing) or compare your work to everyone else’s work.  I am willing to give everyone an A if I can show evidence of consistently superior critical thinking and intellectual curiosity demonstrated in each person’s written work and the quality of her or his discussion and engagement in class.  Sadly, QU 101 is not a priority for many, and this happy state has not happened yet. 

When determining the final course grade, I put some weight on improvement.  I have learned that many students considerably improve their critical thinking, writing, and speaking during the second half of the semester.  The best students continue to improve in these areas even when they were skilled to start.  If you had a rough start to the semester, the best thing to do is pick up from now and do your best work going forward.  The time for backtracking and handing in extremely late assignments has passed, although you may find it helpful to write an outline or draft of a missed assignment for you own learning.

The majority of you are doing well.  We already talked in class about analyzing more deeply in future papers, going beyond the minimum reading and use of sources, and participating both vocally and by doing supporting work for your team or the whole class.  Now that we have worked together on some of the course questions, I have a better understanding of what to expect from you, and when to push for a higher level of inquiry and analysis.  As we continue into the second half of the semester, we will continue to learn from one another and tackle some more interesting and challenging aspects of individuals interacting within communities.

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