Assessment

This class is all about moving you from wherever you are, in terms of history and technology, to someplace further along both of those lines. It’s not about you meeting an “objective” standard, but about making progress that feels meaningful to you.

That said, there are skills in this class that have to be done “right” in order for the ideas to work. But in the tech world, and in the history world, learning is iterative: in other words, you get more than one shot to learn something. Sometimes an initial failure helps you learn and remember the right way even better. So in this class, you’re going to get as many attempts to do the major projects as you need.

By contrast, discussion is something that has to keep moving in order to really be effective. So you don’t get more than one chance on discussion; you just move on if you miss something.

So, how are we going to move together from novice to not-as-novice? We’re going to use a process called “Contract Grading.” In this system, you and I agree together on how much work you’re going to do, and what will happen if you don’t, and we agree on what grade that work will merit. You’ll have one chance in the middle of the semester to revise your contract to change your grade, if you like.

Contract grading eliminates “points” from the grading scale. You’ll do all the work you need to do, as many times as you need to do it, until both you and I are happy with it. There are no “late penalties,” there are no “points off.”

You should be prepared for the likelihood that you’ll need to make multiple attempts on the projects that are assigned; I don’t expect you to get it fully right the first time. (It is POSSIBLE to get it fully right the first time, and many students do, but there is absolutely no shame in needing more than one attempt.)

How does contract grading work?

By Monday, February 1, you’ll need to submit a grade contract to me, using this form. This isn’t completely inflexible: I’ll mandate some of the things you have to do; you’ll select from some options, which you do not need to tell me in advance. You may not contract for a D or an F.

I will be keeping track of what you submit, but you should also be keeping track of it. Make yourself a spreadsheet and mark it down when you turn things in. In a big class like this, it’s pretty easy for things to get lost; make sure you have the receipts on what you did and when you did it.

CLARIFICATION: ALL projects must be FULLY signed off on by final exam time in order to receive credit for them, no matter which grade you contracted for.

For the purposes of this class, final exam time is set at 11:59pm on Wednesday, May 5.

To receive an A, you agree to these things:

  • Satisfactory completion of all base projects by Week 8
  • Satisfactory completion of THREE of the four creative projects by Week 13
  • Completion of 8 responses by Week 14
  • Completion of final reflection project by final exam time
  • Completion of self-assessment
  • Completion of scheduled office hours visit
  • Generous and appropriate interactions with your classmates
  • Participation in discussions and extras on Slack

To receive a B, you agree to these things:

  • Satisfactory completion of all base projects by Week 10
  • Satisfactory completion of TWO of the four creative projects by Week 13
  • Completion of 7 responses by Week 14
  • Completion of final reflection project by final exam time
  • Completion of self-assessment
  • Completion of scheduled office hours visit
  • Generous and appropriate interactions with your classmates
  • Participation in discussions and extras

To receive a C, you agree to these things:

  • Satisfactory completion of all base projects by Week 14
  • Satisfactory completion of ONE of the four creative projects by Week 14
  • Completion of 6 responses by Week 14
  • Completion of final reflection project by final exam time
  • Completion of self-assessment
  • Completion of scheduled office hours visit
  • Generous and appropriate interactions with your classmates

What is your professor’s part in this contract?

Every contract has stipulations on both sides; both parties agree to certain terms. Here are the terms you may either tacitly or explicitly acknowledge in your contract that you will get from my part in this contract.

By accepting your contract, I (and my TA) will promise these things:

  • I will promptly provide constructive feedback, not attacking you as a person but only seeking to make your work better.
  • I will be responsive to your questions, comments, and ideas.
  • I will create and assign high-quality materials that will challenge you and educate you about the topics of this class.
  • I will be your advocate, not your adversary; I will work with you to overcome the difficulties that hinder your success in this class, whether that difficulty relates directly to the class content or not.
  • I will be respectful of your person and your ideas.

What happens if you don’t meet the terms of your contract?

First of all, I will be working with you throughout the semester to make sure that you do meet the terms. I reserve the right to lower your grade by 1/3 (so, a minus grade) if I feel that you have technically met the terms of your contract but have not demonstrated a good-faith effort to be involved in the life of the class. By the same token, I reserve the right to raise your grade by 1/3 (so, a plus grade) if I’m extremely impressed with the work you’ve done.

But it may be that things go catastrophically wrong. If they do, I do reserve the option of giving you a D or an F if you fail to meet the terms of significant portions of your contract. These grades will likely be the result of a breakdown of communication between you and me. If you’re talking to me about your situation, I can help you. If you’re not, I can’t.

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