Grading advice

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Hello! I am a brand new assistant professor in engineering, and I am teaching my own class (100% mine) for the first time (I lectured, co-taught and TAed before, but having control of my class is nice). I have a question regarding grading, and would appreciate your feedback.

I was grading the second problem set yesterday. One question was, for example, asking them to list the different things they could do with a list of ingredients. There is a basic list you expect - pretty straight textbook answer. But a few students added extra options by combining different compounds in different ways, etc. Another student had included 4 different ways of removing water from his system instead of the one I mentioned in class. I was thrilled - I keep my class very interactive and try to ask them questions that challenge exactly this way of thinking. The normal answer is fine, and should get a full grade, but I think the creativity should be encouraged.

So I am thinking of telling them I reserve the right to give extra credit when I see them go the extra mile: A normal, textbook type answer is fine (and in many problems there isn't much else you can do), but if you used creativity and gave me something more, I'll give another point. No going over 100% overall (because that is another can of worms), and doing what your average class expects you can get full credit. But you will be rewarded for thinking like the way I like you to think.

Do you think this makes sense, and is it a good idea? It's easy to keep it consistent in my small class - I can easily give the exact same extra credit to similar answers, etc.

Thanks so much for all your feedback!

I think you are opening a can of worms that you will regret. Did you publish this at the start of the semester in your syllabus? If the normal answer gets full points, then how does a creative student earn more points if the limit is 100%?

Encourage the creativity - yes.

That is exactly what worries me: If someone does what is simply what the solution in a textbook would do, for example, they get full credit. But I feel there is no great way to reward the students who go that extra mile. Another example would be: The question is plot x vs. y and comment on what it implies. The "expected answer" is, for example, x increases with y quickly at first and then slowly so if we want low y, we should be careful at low x values because of the high slope (I am completely making this up). But some students say more: They give reasons (which I didn't ask for but are crucial), propose ways to keep x stable, etc...

So how do you suggest I can do this (besides writing notes and feedback on the homework, which I do anyway)?

I was hoping that it is early enough in the semester (this is only assignment number 2. No such specific cases in homework 1, which was the straight forward plug-and-chug kind really)... If I declare the policy in class, and in an announcement on the website, maybe it would be ok?

Thanks so much!

Really, and maybe my students are especially easy in this regard, if I want to give a student an extra point, I give them an extra point. That's it, no muss, no fuss, no announcements.

If it's something that comes up frequently enough that you feel you have to make it part of your publicized grading policy, you probably need to shift your grading scheme, such that a satisfactory and complete answer is worth fewer points than an excellent and complete answer.

I am not in the sciences or engineering, but I hear you say, "a basically correct answer" and think that's a C or a very generous B.  "Brilliant answer" would be an A to me.   And I think it makes sense...a C is "average," so a student who performs well but not creatively should be a C or B student.  Although this could be perceived as unfair by some - Salieri was good, but did he deserve an A?  Maybe...but not if Mozart was in the room - but I think if one of your course goals is to encourage creativity then you need to not give full credit to students who don't make the effort to stretch their brains and try an unsafe or unusual answer.


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