Functional Problem Solving (CSC 151 2014S) : Handouts

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.

Late Assignments

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 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.)

[Added 12 December 2013] 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 participation and attendance. Students who miss no more than two classes and who regularly answer questions or make comments in class receive 90 for participation. Missing 3-5 classes results in a 20 point penalty. Missing 6-8 classes results in a 40 point penalty. Missing 9 or more classes results in a 60 point penalty. Particularly good answers, comments, and questions result in bonus points for participation.

Because I do not want you to come to class when you are ill (and likely to infect others), I do not count absences due to illness as absences. I also realize that there are other exceptional circumstances, such as academic and athletic responsibilities that call you away from Grinnell. With appropriate notification, such absences are not included in the computation above.

If you miss class for any reason, you are responsible for notifying me about the reason for that absence. I would prefer that you notify me before you miss class. If that is not possible, you should notify me by 5 p.m. on the day that you missed class. With very few exceptions, With very few exceptions, I will not excuse an absence if you do not notify me of the reason for your absence within this time frame.

Weekly Homework

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.

When grading homework this semester, I will typically use a plus/check/minus/zero system. Homework that is primarily correct will earn you a check. Errors will earn you a check-minus or a minus. 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 check-plus or a plus. At the end of the semester, I will convert the symbols to a letter or numeric grade. If your grades a mostly checks, you will earn a B. Plus grades on approximately 1/4 of the graded assignments and plus checks on remaining assignments will earn you an A. Minus grades on the majority of the assignments will earn you a C. Zero grades will earn you an even lower grade.

To help you monitor your learning, you will be required to complete a “wrapper” for most assignments. 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 two or three 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 notes”.

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 review. I will do my best to let you know which exercises to write up, and will also post them on the course web site, both on the schedule and the list of labs.

You and your lab partner(s) may complete the writeup together or individually; 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.

Send your lab writeup to . That email address goes to me and to your grader (who I prefer remain anonymous). The subject of the email should take the form “CSC 151 Writeup #: Title of Lab (Your Last Names Here)”. For example, if I were to write up the laboratory on numeric values, I would use a subject of “CSC 151 Writeup 2: Numeric Values (Rebelsky)”.

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.

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. (Warning: My view of “reasonable” may be somewhat longer than your view.)

Samuel A. Rebelsky,

Copyright (c) 2007-2014 Janet Davis, Samuel A. Rebelsky, and Jerod Weinman. (Selected materials are copyright by John David Stone or Henry Walker and are used with permission.)

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