My thoughts on grading, etiquette, and participation

Grading: I think grade inflation is a bad thing. I also don’t believe in arbitrary averages. It is perfectly possible for every student in my classes to get an A. Nevertheless it usually turns out that students tend to distribute themselves along a curve centered around a B- or so. I do not design my courses that way, however. I set standards, and then observe how students perform.

See also my Writing Guidelines and Paper Grading Rubric.

Grading scale: Here is my overall grading scale and my view on what each letter grade means.

Letter Percentages Pomona Scale Meaning
A
A-

94-100%
90-93%

12
11

Superior achievement
B+
B
B-

87-89%
83-86%
80-82%

10
9
8

High pass
C+
C
C-

77-79%
73-76%
70-72%

7
6
5

Pass
D+
D
D-

67-69%
63-66%
60-62%

4
3
2

Low pass
F

0-59%

0

Failing work

In-class etiquette: Assignments and lectures often stimulate useful and perhaps intense class discussions. For this reason, all participants in the course are expected to honor the following guidelines for our discussion.

  • Whenever possible, speak from your own experience, saying, for example, “I think…” or “In my experience, I have found…” rather than generalizing your experience to everyone.
  • All class discussions should be considered confidential.
  • Avoid overt or covert put-downs, either of other class members, religious groups, other types of communities, etc. This includes negative body language, such as eye-rolling or groaning while another person is speaking.
  • Turn off all electronic devices before entering room.

Participation: Your participation grade will be based on the following scale.

A: The student arrives on time, has completed all readings and assignments, participates actively in discussion, and takes initiative. This student is not afraid to speak in front of the group or to answer questions even when s/he is not entirely confident of the answer.

B: The student arrives on time and has completed all readings and assignments. S/he is present, takes notes, and seems engaged, but lacks initiative, speaking only when called upon.

C: The student arrives more or less on time but appear reluctant to be there. Because of minimal participation, it is not clear whether this student has completed readings and assignments. This student sometimes speaks to others during class on issues not related to the course material.

D: The student arrives late without explanation and often without relevant class materials. This student shows very little interest in which is happening in class and can be disruptive to the learning environment in the classroom.

F: The student is absent beyond three times and/or is extremely disengaged from the class.