For many instructors, grading can be a sensitive issue.

At times, because the Experimental College keeps its classes small, faculty have felt very protective of their students and have given an abundance of high grades. Students, in turn, think that because they have contributed to class discussion or have established a personal relationship with you, they will automatically get a good grade. Although attendance and class participation should be considered in the student’s grade, problems occur when you assign a specfic percentage of the grade for participation or attendance. Rather, we suggest that you state, “attendance and class participation will count in formulating the final grade.”

No matter what your own personal philosophy is about grading, grades are important to students. It is important to tell the class what you expect, to establish a policy for missed or late assignments, to be consistent in your grading, and to maintain standards that you can defend if challenged. A tight and complex numerical system can lack flexibility. Also, a large number of high grades early in the semester can create an equally inflexible position. Be careful to give appropriate grades throughout the semester so you can make realistic decisions at the end of the term.

Please Note: Tufts students are very capable. This can result in most of your students doing very good work. However, it would do a disservice to the best students in your class, those doing truly outstanding work, not to distinguish them from those who did good work. At the end of the semester, it is not unheard of for a well-meaning but misguided instructor to present us with a list of grades in which he or she has given everyone a grade of “A” or ”A-”. This is an untenable position, and we will ask the instructor to re-evaluate his or her decisions.

To avoid such problems, we strongly suggest that you include in your syllabus at least three evaluative assignments, one of which should happen in the first few weeks of the semester. To ensure an appropriate distribution, realistic letter grades with a reasonable spread should be given throughout the semester.

Proceeding in this manner has distinct benefits. First, it gives you a preliminary sense of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, it should provide you with enough evaluative material to be able to make sound qualitative distinctions among your students, thereby indicating that your grading scheme is as meaningful as possible. Moreover, from the students’ point of view, it lets them know early what your expectations are for their work and how they measure up to them. Remember, giving too many “A”s during the semester will “tie your hands” when assigning final grades.

The following grading guideline is from the Tufts Bulletin.

A Superior work
B Meritorious work
C Work without marked merit or defect
D Unsatisfactory work
F Failure

The addition of a plus (+) or minus (-) to the letter grade can further distinguish among students’ work.

Lastly, despite what some students believe, there are no official numerical equivalents to these letter grades, so that a numerical grade of “84” does not correspond to a specific letter grade. It is a good idea to mention this if you think it could be a problem.

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