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February 27, 2008

Finalizing mid-term paper and final concerns

After reviewing all the blog comments and hearing from various students in other ways, I want to bring finality to the mid-term paper assignment and also set out my current expectations for the final exam:

1. Mid-term paper:  I am now officially finalizing the 1000 word-limit and topics for the mid-term paper (as outlined here and here), but I will push back the paper due date to March 31 to relieve any break/Easter worries.  Though I hope students interested in the optional oral experience will try to schedule a talk during the break, I'll try to find non-break times for the optional oral experience for those who need an alternative.

2.  Final exam:  I am officially declaring that the final exam for this class will have a (word-limited) take-home essay question along with an in-class timed section.

3.  Grading the mid-term:  The mid-term paper will not be blind graded, and it will be combined (in a student-beneficial way) with my grading of class participation ("CP") to comprise 25% of the total class grade.  Students who do well on the paper, but poorly on other aspects of class engagement, will have roughly 20% of the 25% CP grade come from the paper.  Student who do less well on the paper, but better on other aspects of class engagement, will have roughly 10% of the 25% CP grade come from the paper.

4.  Grading the final exam: The final exam will be blind graded, and right now I expect the  (word-limited) take-home essay question to make up 40% of the total class grade and the in-class timed section to make up 35% of the total class grade.  (I reserve the right to tweak these percentages depending on student feedback concerning the "success" of the mid-term paper.)

I have been meaning to wrap all this up in class, but you all have provided me with so many other exciting discussion topics.  And, as I highlighted at the end of class, what you learn and write as a student is so much more important than worrying about grades.  After all, everyone can now go read, thanks to Politico.com here, Michelle Obama's senior year thesis at Princeton University, titled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community."   But, as I suggested in class, while I have seen a lot of talk about the content of this thesis, I cannot seem to find what grade she got. Hmmmmm....

February 27, 2008 in Debating the final | Permalink


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Am I correct in assuming that "roughly 20% of the 25% CP grade come[s] from the paper" and "10% of the 25% CP grade come[s] from the paper" means roughly 20% and roughly 10% respectively of the FINAL grade for the course, and not 20% of 25% (which is 5% of the final grade) or 10% of 25% (which would be 2.5% of the final grade)? Yea for math, its so objective!

I'd be thrilled if you were making the paper only worth 5% or 2.5% of the final grade but I don't think thats what you meant, right?

Posted by: Scott Rowley | Feb 27, 2008 11:52:08 PM

You've got it right, Scott, and I was struggling to figure out the best way to articulate this reality with clarity. Since you understood, I think I did an okay job. As you put it, the mid-term will end up being worth "roughly 20% or roughly 10% of the FINAL grade for the course."

Thanks for seeing clarification.

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