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Additional information on grading policies

The syllabus summarizes the weights of various course components. 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. Late assignments for this course will receive no more than 75% of the assigned grade.

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 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 excused absences.

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. Absences without notification have greater consequence to your grade than absences with notification.

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 religious holidays.

Every Grinnell College coach provides his, her, zir, or their 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.

Regular homework

I have tried a variety of approaches to grading homework. I admit to some fondness for a plus/check/minus/zero (or excellent/good/fair/poor) 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.

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 check (or, sometimes, a “good”). Errors will earn you a check minus or 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 plus. At the end of the semester, I will convert the symbols to a letter or numeric grade. If your grades are mostly checks, you will earn a B on the homework component of your grade. Check plus and plus grades will increase the letter grade. (Students who earn check plus or plus on at least 1/4 on the assignments are likely to earn A’s on the assignments.)
Check minus or minus grades will decrease the letter grade.