Class Policies for Chemistry 310 Fall 2017

Grading methods, philosophy and scale

In this course your grade is determined by the quality of work you do on exams and quizzes. Within each category, different tasks/assignments may take on different weightings. For example, the final exam counts twice the rate of a midterm exam. This rewards those students who demonstrate that they have mastered the material over the entire semester (this also rewards those who have improved over the semester).

As far as grading particular items goes, I have found that grading in a holistic fashion is very effective for me. I look at a problem on an exam or at your report or whatever, and try to determine if it is B work or C work and so on. This is much more efficient for me than assigning a certain number of points to each little piece of the assignment and then totaling them up.

What are my expectations for each letter grade? There are a number of ways of describing characteristics of students who earn a particular grade, and it is impossible to specify those characteristics perfectly (I could make the descriptions below almost infinitely long). However, here are some brief criteria which will give you an idea of how I look at performance and grades. By the way, nobody's perfect - on a given problem or assignment, a really great student might blow it, or a student who usually struggles might have a flash of insight. So think of these descriptions as representing performance over the long haul. This is one reason why there are several tests and different types of assignments over the semester.

Notice that my expectations do not factor in effort. What is rewarded is the demonstration of knowledge and mastery of the course material, along with the associated critical thinking skills. Why is that? From my point of view, effort is exceptionally difficult to measure. It is very subjective. Effort is a very personal matter dealing with one's self view and attitudes and many other factors. While I try to get to know students fairly well, the truth is I don't begin to have enough knowledge about you to measure your effort in an accurate manner. Further, effort is in some sense only loosely connected with performance in a course. We all know people who because of low course standards breezed through a course and got an A without making much of an "effort." As another example, imagine a student with a lot of experience in a subject or high native intelligence, who gets an A without any strain (i.e., effort). The concept of effort is way too fuzzy for me to be comfortable using impressions of it in assigning grades.

As the semester progresses, I enter grades into a spreadsheet. At the end of the semester, when I sit down to assign final grades, I use the following steps:

Overall % = 100 x [(0.70 x EF) + (0.25 x QF) + (0.05 x WF)]

where EF = exam fraction, QF = quiz fraction and WF = writing fraction (fraction is just % expressed on a 0-1 scale).

Overall % is rounded to two digits.


If you want to compute your grade at any time, use the formula above. Please realize however that doing so prior to the end of class can be misleading because all the grades are not in. In particular, the final, which is weighted at twice the midterms, can have a dramatic effect, one way or the other, on your grade.

By the way, your grade in this class does not depend in any way on anybody else's grades. No class averages are used in the formula. Also, I don't generally curve individual exams because I find I can vary the difficulty of later exams readily if there is some reason to do so.

  • At this point I consider the scores of the entire class, and I may choose to move some of the grade cutoffs in the table below. I do this using my professional judgment, based upon over three decades of teaching and experience in evaluating over a thousand students. When and if I move cutoffs, all students with a given overall % are treated the same. Thus, if I decide that 89% will be an A-, then all students with an 89% will get an A-. In using my professional judgment, I keep in mind such factors as, but not limited to, the following:

    Once I have considered these factors, I make the final assignment of grades. Here is the grade scale I use with all my classes:


    Overall % Grade
    94+ A
    90-93 A-
    87-89 B+
    83-86 B
    80-82 B-
    77-79 C+
    73-76 C
    70-72 C-
    65-69 D
    below 64 F

    Class Attendance Policy

    Class attendance is up to you. I do not take attendance. However:

    Academic Integrity

    The DePauw policy on academic integrity is described here and you should read it as you will be held to its standards in this course. Violations in the form of cheating, plagiarism, submission of the work of others etc. will result in penalties ranging from a lowered grade to course failure.

    If you have read this far, you've earned an extra point on the first exam! To claim your point, e-mail me by 5 pm on Friday September 1st 2017 and put "Chem 310 Extra Exam Point" in the subject line.


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