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Changes to the Course Grading System

Changes to the Course Grading System published on 2 Comments on Changes to the Course Grading System

A lot of you told me in your midterm evaluation that you were anxious about the grading system in these ways:

  • Some of you worried about how well you were doing on the portion of your grade that would mean that you earned a grade higher than a B in the course.
  • Several of you used a form of the word competition to describe how you felt about the course because of the curve that is mentioned on the syllabus.
  • Some have commented that you aren’t sure how you are doing in the course because of the unusual grading system.

About the Grade Curve

Your worries about the grade curve concern me for several reasons:

  • If you are anxious about the course, you aren’t able to focus on doing your best work.
  • This labor-based grading system is intended to make you feel free to take risks and revise as much as you like—it’s meant to make you less anxious, not moreso.
  • Tombstone inscribed, Grade Curve RIPI did some additional reading on the kind of Complete/Incomplete, no-grades system that I am using, and I found this comment on Jesse Stommel’s blog: “Grading on a Curve: In brief, it pits students against each other, discourages collaboration, and privileges the students who our educational system has already privileged.”

As a result, the statement on the Requirements page that “Grades higher than a B will be based on a bell curve” will not be used in this course. The passage is marked out on the page. The difference between a B+, A-, and A are still related to the value of your contributions and how they demonstrate your leadership and add support to the writing community; however, you will not be compared to any other student.


About Your Grade in the Course

I posted details on How Canvas Grades Work, which I intended to help you tell how you are doing in the course. That information does seem to be adequate, so I want to try something new.

I have created three completion checklists for the course:

By completing these checklists (quizzes in Canvas), you will tally up how you are doing in the course. There are 100 points for each week, for a total of 1500 point overall.

These checklist quizzes are totaled automatically. You can complete them as many times as you like so you can keep a running tally on work in progress.

Because of the way the Canvas gradebook works, I cannot make the points total properly. You will have to add the scores on the three checklists yourself. Divide the number of points you accumulate by the number of points possible to get an idea of your grade in the course. Here’s an example:

  • The midterm checklist is worth 700 points.
  • If you did not do any extra work toward a B and you missed one labor log, you would accumulate 586 points.
  • 586/700 = 83.7 (so you are close to a B in the course)

The checklists are based on the assumption that if you turn in your major projects, you will eventually earn a Complete on that work. You must earn a Complete on all five major projects to earn a B or higher in the course.

About Your Final Exam

The completion checklists are a simple way for you to keep track of the work that you have done in the course. You can use the points from the checklist as you write your Final Exam, in which you propose the grade you should receive in the course.

The final exam and its purpose in the course are NOT changing. The numbers from the checklist will give you a general idea of where you stand, but your actual grade in the course will be based on how effectively you present your argument in your final exam.

Remember that the numbers from the checklist are a guideline only. You explain how I should read those numbers when you write your final.


If you are confused or want to respond to these changes, you can leave a comment on this post.


Photo Credit: Tombstone: What up Holmes by Warren Rohner on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license.


Responses to Midterm Evaluation Comments

Responses to Midterm Evaluation Comments published on

This post summarizes some of the changes that I am going to make to the course, based on the comments people made on the #WednesdayWrite: Midterm Evaluation post before Spring Break. Because there were a lot of comments about the grading system, I am writing a separate post on the changes to the grading system, which will be up by the weekend.

Comments on Daily Discussion Posts

The way that the site was set up there was no way to see all the comments that a person had made. This arrangement made it hard for someone to tell which posts that they had commented on and which they had not.

I have changed the Discussion system that the site uses so that there are a few more tools available. This video provides an overview of the new capabilities:

How to Add a Gravatar (Optional)
Gravatars are the little images that show beside a person’s name in comments on the course website. The word Gravatar itself stands for Globally Recognized Avatar, as the official explanation states. If you do not have a Gravatar set, the site displays the sideways G image. You do not have to add a Gravatar for this course, but you may if you’d like.

To upload an image for your Gravatar, you have to create a account (or log into one if you already have one). You need to use your email address in order to match the comments you have made on the course website. Once you have setup your account, you can follow the instructions for Uploading Your First Profile Image.

Break Genre Analysis Report into Milestones

Mile MarkerSeveral of you commented that you were a little overwhelmed by the size of the Genre Analysis Report. You requested more milestones to help break up the project.

It’s easy enough for me to give you more structure for the project. Realize too that you can create your own milestones as you work on your proposal. When you create your schedule in your Short Proposal, you are, in fact, creating your own milestones. I aim to have a checklist of milestones for you to incorporate into your proposals on Saturday.

Add Quizzes

QUIZ: Who is your favorite Doctor from Doctor Who?A few people asked about adding quizzes to the course. They suggested either dropping some projects or supplementing the projects with quizzes to help with comprehension.

This request is harder to deal with. First, the department requirements for the course call for writing several different kinds of projects. Even if I add quizzes, I can’t drop the projects.

Second, quizzes don’t work well as a way to learn writing. People learn to write by writing. If there were quizzes, they would not be the multiple choice kind. Instead, they would be short writing activities that asked you to apply the readings to some particular scenario.

Since we are at the point in the term where you work on the longer, harder projects, I hesitate to add any more writing activities. For now then, I will not add any quizzes.

Add Job Application Resources


Application - penOne of you requested that I add information on writing job application materials to the course. In particular, the course could benefit from information on resumes, cover letters, personal statements, and other job application documents.

I’ll add some readings and information on job application materials to the Daily Discussion Posts later in the term. The reason I stopped covering the customary job application materials was that most students taking the course have already written what they need for an internship or job search. The large number of seniors in the course, for instance, created these materials months ago (and many already have jobs). By fitting the materials in as Daily Discussion Posts, those of you who want can benefit from the info, and those of you who already have your materials won’t be bothered with busywork.

Final Comments

I am still working on changes to the grading system in response to your comments on the midterm evaluation. I will have that information posted later this week.

Additionally, if you want to say anything more about how the course works, you can add a comment to this post. I am always eager to improve the course if I can.


Photo Credits: Mile Marker by Preservation Maryland, QUIZ: Who is your favorite Doctor from Doctor Who? by, and Application – pen by Flazingo Photos—all three on Flickr and used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license



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