Grading

Your work in this course will not be graded on a conventional A-F, 100-point scale. Using such a system is problematic because a) it focuses on extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivations for learning, and b) it is often subjective and arbitrary – what really separates an essay that earns 87% from one that earns 83%? And if we can’t account for that 4% difference, why are we using numbers at all?

Furthermore, we all know that the greater the emphasis placed upon a letter or number grade, the more likely we, as imperfect humans, will shift our focus to that measurement as our primary end. When that happens, we stop learning and start gaming the system. (For a review of the research on the negative impact of grades on learning, see Alfie Kohn, “The Case Against Grades”).

Instead, my goal in evaluating your work will be to provide extensive and helpful feedback to encourage deeper learning and critical engagement with the material. To that end, we will use a form of grading sometimes called specifications, or sometimes “contract,” grading. In this system, as long as you meet the specifications below, you will receive the corresponding grade. The goal here is to reduce anxiety about final grades, reward hard work and sincere effort, and refocus us all on the learning, not the grade.

Of course, Slippery Rock University does require that I record a final class grade using a traditional A-F ranking. This will be determined based on the criteria below, as well as a holistic evaluation of your progression in learning over the term.

Additional Notes

  • Regarding absences: obviously learning in the midst of a pandemic can create exigencies that make your attendance in class impossible. Should such circumstances arise, please contact me so we can discuss this.
  • In order to achieve a grade level, all the criteria in a given column must be met. For example, if a student submits the research project, but only submitted 3 analytical essays, they cannot earn the B.
  • You may revise 2 written assignments after receiving feedback. Revisions must be submitted 1 week after receiving feedback. You must notify me via email that you have submitted the revision.
  • All assignments must be submitted on time; if you are unable to complete an assignment as thoroughly as you’d like by the due date, submit it and you may revise it after receiving feedback.
  • Students failing to meet the criteria for “C” will generally receive a D; Fs will typically only be earned in cases in which students stop participating in the course and do not withdraw.