Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grade Wrap-Up

Friday when I arrived on campus, I found the calculus exams dutifully graded by my TAs. It was a relatively short exam with a substantial multiple choice component, so the quick turn-around was pleasant yet reasonable.

Of course it took me three hours to deal with alphabetizing, entering scores into the spreadsheet, and making sure that my spreadsheet really did calculate grades in the manner described in my syllabus. I have a fairly complicated grading scheme when it comes to "if this grade is higher than that grade, then this counts extra" and such. Also, I drop low scores but have a spreadsheet convention that students who don't take an assessment get a blank cell and not a zero* -- and Excel's SMALL() function only considers non-empty cells, so I need a lot of IF() and COUNT() to make sure that I'm not dropping non-zero grades when I should be dropping the un-earned zeros from people who didn't take the quiz/etc. I had to deal with some weird special cases. I also had to deal with some people who didn't take the exam. And then I had to put the grades into the onery online system.

Today I mustered up the energy to deal with the papers from the honors seminar. Some were excellent, as expected. Some were surprisingly excellent. And a few were disappointing. One of the smart slackers pulled it off much better than the other. The self-identified "not smart but a hard worker" student wrote one of the best papers. The student whose ideas were all over the place managed to rein things in and write a focused and organized paper. The amazing student was refreshingly amazing (after having turned in a sub-par draft almost two weeks ago). Then I had to quantify "participation" and everything else and determine the course grades.

We hope that my honors freshmen were not permanently spoiled by my lax rules about citations. "Do we have to use MLA?" they asked. Nope. You can use anything you want as long as it is consistent with scholarly writing, I can tell which ideas are yours and which came from other people, and for the ideas that came from other people I need enough information so that I could look it up if I wanted to. Most of them stuck with MLA format anyway. One opted for IEEE citation style. I also told them that I didn't care whether they used a cover page or any of the other formatting rules that other people enforce. I pleaded with them to prioritize content over all else.

And finally, grades were released today from the statistics class that I took. I scored a 96.5 on the final (out of 100). The median was 86, and the mean was 82. The exam was open book, open notes, open laptop. I finished it in about an hour (I was the first or second person done), and I didn't use the laptop. I knew that I didn't get 100 when I was taking it because there were a few things that I knew that I didn't know. I opted against spending an hour with my open books, notes, and laptop to track down how to get those last few points, as I didn't think that was a particularly productive use of my time. And the exam as I submitted it reflected my knowledge of the material. I do wonder about the people who weren't doing well in that class. I certainly hope that they aren't statistics graduate students.

And now I am off to eat pizza and drink beer at an end of semester fete.

*The grade of 0 is reserved for earned zeros so that I can calculate meaningful class averages based only on the students who took the exam.