| || || |
The following provides an overview of grading policies in the College. Please note that policies differ for graduate courses; if you are teaching a cross-listed course, be familiar with both policies. For more information, visit the web page for the University Registrar:
Principles for Effective Grading
Beginning teachers soon discover that grading assignments can be a difficult and occasionally perplexing task. Because many decisions about grading are dictated by a particular course and its goals and objectives, only the most general issues are covered below. If you have responsibilities for grading, you should, if possible, consult with an experienced faculty member in your department.
Once you have decided on your objectives for the course, grading becomes largely a process of translating those objectives into quantified performance standards. Make sure the class understands exactly what success entails. Tests must always test the right thing to meet the course goals, or else students direct their energies to the source of the grade and away from your goals. The students should not be good at the course at first, so you need to leave room within your grading system for improvement. Yet the grades should not cause all your students to abandon hope.
Hand assignments back promptly. Students are less likely to go the extra distance for a subsequent assignment when they do not know how you evaluated an earlier one. Quite simply, if they don't know where to put the extra effort, they don't put it anywhere. When you hand back a graded assignment, report on the section averages and offer a way to address the common mistakes. Discuss the best answer in the group but do not embarrass a student through praise or criticism. If possible, hand back graded material individually, not in a public folder or box where the privacy of the individual is not respected.
When grading a stack of papers or tests, establish consistent criteria for all of them, take frequent breaks, grade all of one question at a time, and then shuffle the paper and grade all of the next question. Be positive in tone, make the most important problems clear, and do not overwhelm a student's writing with yours. Summarize at the end so the student knows how to focus both on what went wrong (and how it can be corrected) and on what went right. Note improvement. Never use a grade as a threat. If you cannot be objective about a student — through dislike or affection — ask a colleague to check on your grading. Avoid favoritism or the appearance of favoritism — the class needs to feel they can rely on your fairness.
Keep a record of the grade distributions for each graded assignment. If the grade distributions are consistently skewed, you may want to look at your standards more closely. Clusters of grades may indicate that your assignments or the standards you are using do not differentiate well among different levels of performance. Although it is possible to have a class in which all the students are performing equally well, more often clusters of scores will indicate inappropriately designed testing and grading methods. Further, if all your students fail a particular assignment, you should try to determine why. It is simply not reasonable to assume that all, or even nearly all, the students in a class in the College are incapable of or unwilling to produce acceptable college-level work.
Finally, try to keep the students focused on the learning processes involved in completing assignments rather than on the evaluation process. If they feel they are learning something and not just being judged harshly or arbitrarily, they will be more likely to accept, value and try to comply with the standards you set for them.
Please keep in mind that the transcript is the single official record of a student's work that will be held forever. A University of Chicago transcript measures attempt as well as mastery of a subject. Our College students understand themselves to be in an institution where their work will be evaluated carefully, assessed carefully, and graded rigorously. You are expected, therefore, to use the full range of quality grades when grading students. For these reasons Chicago has experienced little grade inflation. If you have questions about grading policies or related issues contact Michael R. Jones, Associate Dean of the College (773-702-8928 or email@example.com).
College Grading Policies
In the College, these marks are used for grading courses: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, F, P, N, R, I, and W. Note that no grade of A+, D-, F+ or F- can be granted. Grading in graduate and professional school courses (courses numbered 30000 and above) is governed by the departments and schools, some of which do not provide for plus or minus grading. The level of the course, not the status of the student, determines which grading policy applies.
The familiar grades A through F are known as “quality grades” and carry a specific weight in calculating a student’s official GPA. The weights for quality grades are as follows: A = 4.0, A- = 3.7, B+ = 3.3, B = 3.0, B- = 2.7, C+ = 2.3, C = 2.0, C- = 1.7, D+ = 1.3, D = 1.0, F = 0. GPAs are regularly calculated only to determine Dean's List, academic probation, and general honors. They may influence awards such as Phi Beta Kappa and departmental honors. All quality grades, except the grade of F, confer credit for a course. The College does not rank students.
Of the remaining (non-quality) marks, only the grade of P (Pass) grants credit for a course. Whether a course with a grade of P can be counted toward a degree depends on how it is used in the curriculum. Courses that are to meet general education requirements must carry quality grades. Any free elective can be taken for a P, subject to instructor approval or departmental policy. Departments determine how many courses in their concentrations may carry Ps. Most but not all degree programs require quality grades in courses used in the student's concentration. Even when P grades are permitted, students are discouraged from having more than a few such grades in their records.
Two arrangements produce grades of P: the P/F (Pass/Fail) option and the P/N (Pass/No Credit) option.
P/F grading is an informal arrangement between instructor and student made before the final class exercise. No paperwork is required; the instructor simply agrees to give either a P or an F for a grade. Instructors may decline a request for P/F grading, and some instructors are constrained by their departments to grant no Ps. Physical sciences departments, for example, generally prohibit instructors from submitting Ps for undergraduates in College courses except for a few specific classes under special circumstances.
Because the P/F is an informal arrangement, it can be reversed, i.e., a student can ask the instructor to return to grading on the A through F scale. And, of course, the instructor can decline the request and hold to the original agreement of P/F. The agreement to grade on a P/F basis, or to revert to standard grades, must be made before grades are submitted. After the grade of P is recorded it cannot be changed to a quality grade.
P/N is a registration procedure, a formal arrangement among student, adviser, and Registrar. The student must process a P/N registration form, starting with her or his adviser, by the end of the second week of the quarter. This arrangement is irreversible. The Registrar will convert the grade submitted by the instructor to either a P or an N according to rules set by the department. An N appears on the transcript but confers no credit for the course and is not counted in calculations of the official GPA. A few departments insist that an N be entered for marks lower than C-, but most departments regard a D as a passing grade under the P/N arrangement. A notation on the grade sheet indicates that the student has made this arrangement with the Registrar.
A mark of R is a formal arrangement among student, adviser, and Registrar. Students must arrange for an R with their advisers by the end of the second week of the quarter. This registration is irreversible. A mark of R, for "registered," will be entered on the transcript. An R registration is commonly used by graduate students, not undergraduates. It does not confer credit for the course and carries no weight in the GPA. A course with a grade of R is not considered a course registration for the purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid or academic standing. Undergraduates are discouraged from viewing an R registration as an "official audit." Undergraduate audits are informal arrangements between instructor and student and require no paperwork.
A W shows that a student has withdrawn from a course. It is a permanent grade. A course dropped during the first three weeks of the quarter will not appear on the transcript, but after the third week, students must request a W if they do not intend to complete a course. Students must request the W before the final paper is due, before the final exam is taken, or before the last day of the quarter, whichever comes first. An instructor is obligated to grant a W. This grade appears on the transcript but is not calculated in official GPA's. If a student does not intend to finish a course, the student must explicitly request a W from the instructor. If a student has not requested a W the instructor may choose to issue an appropriate grade or choose to leave the grade blank, the most common course of action.
The grade of I (Incomplete) indicates that a student has not completed the requirements of a course before the end of the quarter — defined as the date of the final examination, the due date of the final paper, or the end of the tenth week of the quarter — but has made satisfactory arrangements with the instructor to do so. An I may be entered at the discretion of the instructor, if the student submits a "Request for Grade of Incomplete Form" available from the student's College adviser, and if that form accompanies the grade sheet to the Registrar. An Incomplete Form is required only for College level courses (courses numbered below 30000). College students enrolled in graduate-level courses need only arrange for the instructor to turn in an I on the grade sheet.
Instructors are not required to grant Incompletes to students, and some departments/divisions have established policies that govern Incompletes. Nor does the form, which must be signed by the student's adviser, indicate adviser approval or authorization. Requiring the adviser's signature simply gives the adviser an opportunity to be informed about the student's circumstances. Faculty members should inform students of their personal policies about Incompletes early in the quarter. If departmental policies govern Incompletes, these should be explained to students.
Normally, Incompletes should be made up quickly, though the best plan is for a student to complete the unfinished work within a realistic time frame. After the work has been completed and a grade recorded with the Registrar, the mark of I will permanently precede the final grade on the transcript. The "Request for Incomplete Form" represents a contract between the student and instructor and should indicate what work remains, the deadline for that work, and what the grade will be if the deadline is missed. If no specific deadline is set, the default deadline is one year hence. If the deadline is missed and the instructor has not specified a default grade, a grade of W will automatically be posted at the deadline. An instructor can extend the deadline by contacting the Registrar in advance.
College students should be discouraged from taking Incompletes, because inevitably the extra work required to complete a course will interfere with new obligations in subsequent quarters. Students are almost always better served by bringing the quarter's work to closure, taking lesser grades, and putting their efforts into performing better in the following quarter. First year students are expected to complete their courses on time. For first year students, just learning to manage the workload and the demands of the quarter system, carrying forward unfinished work places them at special risk academically. Incompletes jeopardize academic standing and financial aid eligibility.
Grades of Incomplete indicate that the work of the quarter was finished after the end of the quarter. An I is appropriate if a student cannot finish the work on time for whatever reason, even a sudden illness or a serious family problem. In most cases an Incomplete is not granted unless the student has already completed most of the work for the course.
Frequently Asked Questions about Grading Policies
- What do I do if a student's name appears on my grade sheet and that student has never (or not recently) attended class?
Answer: Leave a blank on the grade sheet. The Registrar’s Office will check the student’s record when reviewing the grade sheet and make the appropriate adjustment. Usually, the student has dropped the course but has not yet been dropped from your grade sheet.
- What do I do if the name of a regularly attending member of the class does not appear on my grade sheet?
Answer: Write the student's name at the bottom of the class list and assign a grade. The Registrar will confirm registration and record the student’s grade.
- Can I change a posted grade?
Answer: You cannot lower a posted grade. You can raise a quality grade, except for the grade of F, which cannot be changed except where rendered wholly as a clerical error. Also, you cannot change a grade of P, N, W, or R, nor can you remove an intervening Incomplete, except in the case of clerical error.
To raise a quality grade, send a request in writing to the University Registrar. The request should be on paper with your signature. The Registrar will make the change in the student’s record.