Before You Grade: Grading Policies
First, some basic expectations should be clearly communicated at the beginning of semester in cases of late work, extensions, make-up work, and regrade requests. Outline these policies in your course syllabus and go over them at the very beginning of the semester.
Check with the Instructor of Record to see whether he or she already has policies the GSIs will be expected to use. In many teaching contexts it’s appropriate for GSIs to draft their own grading policies and include them on their section syllabus.
If you are responsible for deciding grading policies, try to strike a balance between the needs of your students and your own constraints as a GSI. For example, some GSIs are more flexible around late assignments, giving every student 1 or 2 “free” late days which can be used any time during the course. However, if your workload is very heavy, you might not be able to accommodate late days for every student and instead could drop every student’s lowest quiz or assignment grade. For regrade requests, you might set a timeline in which a student can ask for a regraded assignment or exam (e.g. within 7 days of returning the assignment) and/or you might set a reasonable limit on the number of regrades. Emergencies, illness, and exceptional personal circumstances should be addressed in the syllabus as well, typically through a short note telling students to contact you as soon as such conditions arise.
Having these policies clearly outlined provides a common set of expectations and can prevent confusion and misunderstandings down the line.
The following sample grading policies, developed by GSIs, address the students directly.
The Purpose of Your Homework
The ultimate purpose behind your homework assignments is to provide you with practice applying the physical principles covered in this course. You will also be practicing your general problem-solving skills. Your homework problems should help you develop the following skills:
- Determine relevant physical principles for new problems.
- Correctly set up the problem based on those physical principles.
- Work through the problem to arrive at a solution.
- Check your solution. Does it make physical sense? Does it have the right units?
In addition, you will be developing your mathematical facility.
A Job for You
Please look over your assignments and the solutions when they are returned to you, and do not just toss them in the recycling bin. Reviewing solutions is an integral part of the learning process! If you have questions on the solutions, please come discuss them with me in office hours. Also come see me in office hours if you find you are having difficulty with the homework. Lastly, do come to office hours with homework questions prior to the due date.
- Peer collaboration is highly encouraged. It is a highly efficient and fun way to learn physics. However, your homework must be entirely your own work and in your own words.
- Copying solutions from your peers or other sources is plagiarism and will not be tolerated. Possible consequences of plagiarism and cheating include failing the assignment or exam, failing the course, and/or referral to the Center for Student Conduct.
- Unless otherwise stated in the problem, you must perform all of the mathematical manipulations by hand. It is good practice!
- Show all of your work. Having the correct answer is not enough for credit; you must demonstrate how you arrived at it. This is where all the learning happens. In the event that you have an error in your solution, showing all your work will also help you earn partial credit.
- Assignments must be handwritten or typeset. If written, be sure to write neatly, legibly, and large enough to be read without a magnifying glass. If I can’t read it, I can’t give you credit. Staple your assignments so I can grade all the parts.
I will grade homework and exams without looking at names.
- No late work and no extensions. Instead, your two lowest scores on homework assignments over the course of the semester will be dropped.
- In the event of a serious emergency, please let the instructor know with the maximum possible advance notice.
- You have one week to request a regrade on an assignment.
- Regrade requests must be accompanied by a written explanation of why you would like your paper regraded.
- When your paper is regraded, your score may go up or down, or remain unchanged.
Anonymity means that I will not look at the name on a paper or exam until after I have given it a grade. In order to make this easier, you should write your name, etc., on a cover sheet attached to your paper rather than on the top of the first page of the paper itself. Likewise, do not write your name on each page of your exam; it is sufficient to write it on the cover of your blue book.
GSIs sometimes make mistakes when they are grading papers, quizzes, and exams. If you feel that your GSI has made a mistake, you should ask him or her to regrade your paper.
Here is my policy on regrades:
- I will not accept papers for regrading in the three days following their return to you. The reason for this delay is to give you time to read and think about my comments. Very often students find that comments that don’t make sense the first time around become clearer after some reflection and review of the assigned readings, lecture notes, etc.
- Once you have read and thought about any comments on your paper, you have two options: Come to office hours to discuss your paper and my comments on it in greater detail; and/or submit your paper for regrading.
- To have your paper regraded, you must resubmit it to me together with a written explanation of why you think that your initial grade is unfair and ought to be changed. I will only accept papers for regrading if they are accompanied by a written explanation from the student.
- Finally, please remember that when a paper is regraded it is reassessed from scratch. This means that a regrade could result in a grade that is lower than your initial grade rather than higher. If this happens then you must accept the lower grade.
Papers, Dates, and Extensions
- All papers should be checked for errors in spelling and grammar before submission. Papers with a large number of errors will be returned unread.
- Papers that are received after the due date will incur a late penalty.
- Papers that are received on the due date but after the due time will receive the same penalty as papers that are received a day late.
- It is the students’ responsibility to see that their GSI receives their paper on time. If in doubt, students should double check with their GSI that the paper has been received. This is especially important if the paper has been submitted by a third party or by email.
- Students must keep a copy of their paper and be prepared to submit it to their GSI on request.
- All extensions must be arranged at least three days in advance and students must be prepared to document their reasons for requesting an extension.
- Late papers will only be accepted with a valid, documented excuse.