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.