© Daniel Paul O'Donnell, 2005. All rights reserved. Latest revision: September 10, 2005 11:28:49.
This document describes general administrative policies followed in all my classes. It includes policies on grading, extensions for late work, missed quizzes, texts, or exams. It is to be treated as part of the course syllabus. Students taking my classes are required to be familiar with the material.
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The University of Lethbridge keeps track of student performance using a letter and grade point system (See section 4 of the
University Calendar <http://www.uleth.ca/reg/2005-06/calendar/part04.pdf>). Instructors assign students a letter grade at the end of each course (the University does not issue or keep track of
mid-term grades). These letter grades are converted to a numerical value (a
Grade Point) for assessing overall academic performance (a
Grade Point Average or
GPA). The University does not record percentage-type grades and does not have a fixed scale for conversion from percentage scores
to letter grades and grade points. Each instructor is responsible for determining their own methodology for determining students'
final letter grade.
In my classes, I use the following letter-grade to percentage correspondences:
How your grade is determined depends on the type of work being assessed. Tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification
questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in my grammar and language classes) are usually assigned a numeric
score which is easily converted to a percentage. Essays, presentations, and other performance-oriented tests are usually graded
by letter. I convert letter grades to percentages by taking the median value in each grade-range, and rounding up to the nearest
whole percent (the only exceptions are A+ [which is converted to 100%], and F [which is converted to an arbitrary percentage
between 0% and 49% based on my estimation of the work's quality]). These scores can be found in the
conventional value row of the above table.
In marking work I try to keep the University's official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means your work is excellent; a B means your work is good; a C means it is satisfactory; a D that it is poor; and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.
I calculate your final grade in three steps:
It may happen that I make a mistake in grading your work, that you feel that I have graded your work unfairly, or that you believe I have incorrectly or inconsistently applied my policies to your work. If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend that you arrange to meet me to discuss the problem. I will gladly correct any mistakes I have made; in the case of a disagreement as the the application of a specific policy or the merit of a specific piece of work, I usually am willing to reconsider my decision, and always am willing to explain my position. If you are still dissatisfied, the University has a procedure by which you can appeal any grade you believe to be unfair or improper. You can find out more in the Calendar or by contacting the Student Union.
Although I am under most circumstances willing to correct or reconsider grades I have assigned, I do have some requirements that must be met before I will do so:
Few aspects of university-level humanities work seem to worry students more than the criteria their instructors will use in
grading essays and presentations. This is reasonable: in writing essays or giving presentations, students are often asked
to define and answer their own questions; in very few cases, moreover, is there any single
correct answer. How then can an instructor assign a value to any presentation or essay? How, before students hand something in can
they know what their instructors are looking for?
The answer is that essays and presentations are only partially about finding the
right answer: your grade has as much or more to do with the quality of your performance as it does with whether you get the
right answer. This is also true of other disciplines: students in Physics 1000, for example, are required to perform an experiment
in which they determine acceleration due to gravity. The point of this exercise is not so much finding the right answer (which
has been known for some time) as much as it is to test how well students go about setting up and carrying out the experiment.
A very wrong answer is obviously not going to help your lab grade—because it probably indicates a serious problem in the way
you conducted the exercise. But the right answer isn't going to get you an A either (you could always look it up), if your
performance was not also of the highest quality. Expectations for University level work do vary from discipline to discipline
and instructor to instructor. At the same time, however, there are some cross-disciplinary standards. Poorly executed, sloppy, or extremely incorrect work will get you a poor grade in both sculpture
and computer science. But it is hard to think of a discipline where highly original, well-thought-out, and carefully executed
work would not receive a very high grade.
The following rubric explains the criteria I use in grading student work. Although its primary focus is the literary essay, I have seen similar criteria in other disciplines and at other Universities. Mutatis mutandis, you should find that it is applicable to your work in most courses
I use the following criteria in grading student work. Few papers will match all or exclusively the criteria listed under each grade (a highly original, well argued, well-written, well-documented paper might have an unacceptable number of typos, for example). The weighting of the criteria is also not absolutely rigid: I tend to reward originality or subject-mastery more heavily than I penalise its absence. In one area, however, I am rigid: serious or frequent errors of fact, inadequate or non-existent documentation, and misrepresentations of your own or others research will be severely punished. In addition to a lower over all grade on your paper, you can also expect to be assigned additional penalties starting at least 1/3 of a letter grade and ranging up to an F in course.
Readings and other homework assignments (translations, exercises, etc.) are to be finished by the day they are first mentioned in the syllabus. You will be doing yourself a favour if you try to finish them slightly earlier. Above all else be sure to allow yourself the time necessary to complete them.
If you fall behind in your daily work, please come and see me before you get too far behind. I may be able to give you advice on catching up.
Essays (and similar take-home assignments) are due at the beginning of class on the day specified on your syllabus. Work handed in any time after this—including during or right after class—is late. In most cases, I allow a five minute grace period after the scheduled beginning of class.
Unless otherwise indicated in the course syllabus, the late penalty for essays and similar take home work is one third of a letter grade per day or part thereof, including weekends. This means an 'A+' paper that is one day late, will be given a final grade of 'A', and an 'A' paper that is three days late will be given a 'B', etc. The penalty works out to between 2.5-3% per day. In some cases, essays my be subject to heavier or lesser penalties.
Papers should whenever possible be handed to me. If you shove a paper under my office door or put it in my mailbox, you run the risk of it being lost or overlooked. This is important because late penalties cover the entire period from the due date to the time I receive the paper in my hands or the date stamped on first page by the departmental administrator. If you push the paper under my door while I am in class on Friday afternoon and I don't find it until Monday morning, it is three days late.
Test, quizzes, and exams must be written at the time scheduled: for paper tests and exams this means at the time and day specified in the syllabus or in the University's exam schedule; for tests and exams written on WebCT, this means within the specified exam window. I make exceptions only for emergencies and medical crises in your immediate circle of acquaintances (i.e. involving you, your immediate dependants or guardians, or other very close relatives or friends). In most cases, I am prepared to accept a signed letter explaining the circumstances for your absence. I reserve the right, however, to ask for more formal documentation such as a doctor's note or police report. You should be especially careful about final exams. I will not accept dentist appointments, doctor appointments, job interviews, or weddings as valid excuses for missing a final exam. You should make sure you are able to write the final exam at the time specified before you take the course.
Quizzes may or may not be announced. There are no make-up quizzes either way. If you miss a quiz, your grade for that quiz is 0%. In the event of a serious sickness or emergency, I will adjust your quiz grade to reflect your absence.
Except under the most unusual of circumstances, extensions are granted only for medical, family, or personal emergencies. All requests must be documented in writing. In most cases, I will accept a signed letter explaining why the extension was necessary; I reserve the right to request more formal documentation, however. If it is possible, I prefer advance notice of requests for extension or alternate arrangements for tests and exams. Especially in the case of family medical emergencies, however, you should not worry about contacting me until after things are settled enough for you to do so.