Sorry for the radio silence. Last week was incredibly busy. And I just spent this weekend finishing up grading. I don’t mind grading/giving feedback. What I hate is that it comes in such large chunks. You’re never just grading a couple of student assignments. You’re grading all of them. Our quarter grades are due today, and after catching up on a few individual assignments, I started doing the calculations for the quarter grade. When I grade, I tend to think about how I should change something to better get across a concept or to make the students work a little harder. Some thoughts I had while grading:
For CS I:
- My labs are too easy and/or I grade them too easy. For the most part, I’ve been giving no lower than a B on a lab. These are simple activities that just require following directions. Students that lose points often just fail to follow one part of the lab. There are a few of these that I think I need to make harder. The assigned tasks should be more specific and there might be a challenge to get the tasks completed correctly. Some of the later labs were like this, and they seemed better to me. I could also be harder on mistakes. More points off for certain things. Basically, students either get an A or a zero, very little in between.
- I want to weight quizzes more. I’ve given two or three quizzes and a couple of practice quizzes. I think I should weight these more. They were worth so little that even when a student got a low grade, it didn’t affect their grade.
- I’d like to squeeze in one larger assessment before the quarter. Everything they’ve done up to this point has been small things, which will only be worth about 1/4 of their grade when all is said and done. I’d like to have a larger project or a test before the quarter ends.
For CS II:
- I did manage a test in CS II, but the balance of small and large projects was off. We only got one large project and 3 small ones. We ended up doing two small projects together, so those didn’t get graded.
- I sort of wish it were a year-long course. I feel like I’m cramming a lot of stuff into a semester.
I am committed to Project-Based Learning for both courses, and in CS II, I do feel like the concepts stick with the students. They’ve worked pretty hard and are tackling some very challenging material. But in CS I sometimes I feel like the students forget everything they learned from one lab to the next. I put in more assessments to force them to remember, but until I have a larger one, I’m not sure how it will pan out.
Questions I hate getting from students:
- How long should this be?
- Is this good enough?
- Is this right?
- Why did I get [insert grade here]?
I understand why they ask these questions, and I know sometimes my instructions seem vague because I may not put length or other super specific requirements. I say things like I’m grading on quality and creativity and complexity. And they aren’t sure what those mean. What I tend to say is it needs to be long enough and good enough. If it’s right, the program will run without error. I don’t generally get these past CS I. I think the landscape is so unfamiliar in CS I, they’re looking for places to stakes in the ground.
I know college profs who give F’s when there’s just a missing semicolon. I don’t want to be that person, but I also want to make sure they’re not too loosey goosey. I would love to hear from others about assessment, both projects and performance overall.