After reviewing the grade contract, what do you think?
- What is the philosophy behind it?
- Does it seem fair?
- How might it contribute to your learning?
- Do you have questions?
- Is there anything you would add?
TCORE 101 Grade Contract
Think about something you’re good at and love to do, something that has taken you years to master. How did you learn how to do that, and where did that motivation come from? Whether it’s soccer, speaking another language, or playing video games, it’s my guess that you felt motivated to do it not because you got a grade on it but because you felt satisfaction in learning and mastering it.
So let’s imagine that you wanted to learn something new, like pottery. You sign up for a class since you are motivated because you want to learn to do pottery simply because doing art is awesome. And so you come to a class, work with other ceramics artists, give feedback on people’s work, and probably make a lot of ugly pots at first. But that’s okay, because you’re all in a creative and supportive community, learning together from mistakes and being inspired by each other with guidance from an instructor. And even if you came in already knowing how to do some fancy stuff with clay, like glazing, you find yourself being inspired by others, learning different ways of working with the clay that you hadn’t even thought possible.
And sometimes, even we are really good at something and do it every day, THIS can happen:
http://31.media.tumblr.com/b372a069bb880375d1b32b63a966e38b/tumblr_mukmk4rXzy1s80ppfo1_400.gif And that is OK!
In this context of self-motivated learning, grades don’t mean anything. They don’t matter because deep learning is more about collaboration, effort, and improvement. Consider two issues around grades: First, using conventional grading (A-F) often leads us to think more about the grade rather than about our writing, progress, or learning; we worry about the grades more than about what we want to learn or have learned. To put it another way, if learning is what we are here for, then grades can sometimes distract from our true goal. So, how do we make sure that our goals aren’t about grades in this class but about learning to engage in writing? Second, conventional grading may make you afraid to take risks, explore, or experiment with your writing or ideas. It doesn’t allow you to make mistakes or try new things in writing, which many scholars say is the main way people get better at something. Sometimes grades can make you feel like you are working against your teachers and peers, making changes they want you to do even though you wanted to do it differently. Making mistakes in writing is key to learning how to do it better.
For the above reasons, we are using a contract for grading in our class.
What is a grading contract?
Unlike traditional grades, a grading contract assigns credits based on meeting expectations, putting in time and effort, and completing all assignments. Your final grade is solely based on the amount of work you put into your writing and reading, your contributions to class, and your collaboration with other students.
A grading contract does not mean you will not be critiqued or receive feedback from your teachers and peers. You will get lots of feedback on your writing and other work during the quarter. Use these comments (in the many forms they come) to rethink ideas and improve your writing and practices. Throughout the quarter, you will receive feedback from me and your peers. What we want to work on most is deciding independently what feedback to take or reject so you can become a more self-determining and confident writer.
You are guaranteed a pass in this course if you meet all of the following conditions.
- Participation. You agree to fully participate in at least 80.0 % of our scheduled class sessions and their activities and assignments, which means you will need to be in class since most activities cannot be done before or after class and require you to work with others or in groups. The University of Washington Tacoma has a policy that instructors cannot grade students based on attendance, but you can be evaluated on participation. For our class, we need to figure out together what “participation” means and when does someone not get credit for it?
NOTE: Assignments not turned in because of an absence, whether ones assigned on the schedule or ones assigned on earlier days in class, will be late, missed, or ignored (depending on when you turn it in finally, see the guidelines #3, #4, and #5 below).
Any absence due to extenuating circumstances (e.g., emergency or obligation, job interview, work, illness, etc.) will be considered independently of the above participation policy, as long as the student has provided written documentation or communication for all absences. This same policy applies to students who have mandatory military-related absences (e.g., deployment, work, duty, etc.). Again, the student must provide written documentation or communicate with the teacher, stating the days he/she will be absent. This will allow us to determine how you will meet assignments and our contract, despite being absent.
- Lateness. You agree to come on time or early to class. Walking into class late 1-2 times in a quarter is understandable, but when does lateness become a problem (for the class as a whole and/or for the individual) and what constitutes “late” arrival? We can decide this as a class the first week of the quarter.
- Sharing and Collaboration. You agree to work cooperatively and collegially in groups. This may be the easiest of all our course expectations to figure out, but we should have some discussions on what we expect from each other.
- Late Work. You agree to turn in properly and on time all work and assignments expected of you. During the quarter, you may, however, turn in a few assignments late. The exact number of those late assignments is stipulated in the table on the last page of this contract, which we negotiate. Late work is defined as any work or document due that is turned in AFTER the due date/time BUT within 48 hours of the deadline. For example, if some work (say a written reflective piece) was due on Thursday, November 12 at noon, that piece must be turned in by noon on Saturday the 14th. Again, we should discuss and agree upon the final details of this item: What exactly does “late” mean? How important is it to each meeting’s functioning? What are the consequences to the class when one person’s work is late?
- Super Late Work. If you turn in late work AFTER the 48 hours stipulated in #4 above (Late Work), then it will be considered “missed work,” which is a more serious mark against your grading contract. This is due to the fact that all assignments are used in class when they are due, so turning in something beyond 48 hours after it is due means it is very likely that the class will have moved on and its absence will negatively impact your colleagues in class (since they depended on you to turn in your work for their use).
- Missed Assignments. You agree not to completely miss any assignments. Every assignment we do is important for your development as a writer, and turning in work super late affects your learning. Turning in super late work also affects other students because many assignments, like peer reviews, rely on you getting the assignment done on time to benefit others. Because of these reasons, missed assignments will cause you to breach the contract.
All Work and Writing needs to meet the following conditions:
- Complete and On Time. All assignments are completed and in alignment with the assignment’s expectations and requirements. (See #3 and #4 above for details on late assignments).
- Global Revisions. When the job is to revise your thinking and work, you will reshape, extend, complicate, or substantially clarify your ideas – or relate your ideas to new things. You won’t just correct or touch up. Revisions must respond to and consider seriously other students’ and/or the instructor’s feedback.
- Local Revisions. When you submit final versions of your projects, your work must be copy edited and proofread to the best of your ability, specifically focusing on the issues of grammar or style specific to you. (Copy editing is not taken into consideration on drafts, only final versions of your projects.)
Knowing Where You Stand
Unlike regular grading, with contract grades you can easily figure out where your grade is depending on how much work you’ve done to fulfill the contract. For, whenever you get feedback, I and/or your peers will make it clear if the assignments have met expectations. Successful college students keep track of their progress, so be sure to pay attention to Canvas. Refer to the “Grades” section on Canvas. Here you will see a Complete/Incomplete score or a section noted in pink, meaning late. The contract grade takes a bit of a mind shift, so let me know if you have questions about where you are in meeting the contract for a pass.
Not Passing Grades
A not passing grade means you did not fulfill the contract requirements and expectations and as such, do not earn credit for the course. The top actions that lead to not passing is missing too much in-class work and completely missing assignments, so be sure to stay on top of the coursework and let me know immediately if you are having trouble completing the work. I am happy to meet with you at any point during the quarter if you have questions, issues, or concerns.
Break-Down of the Contract for a “Pass” or “Credit”
Below is a table that shows the main components that affect your successful completion of the contract.
||% of In-Class Work Missed
||# of Late Assignments
Late = within 48 hours of being due
|# of Super Late Assignments
Turned in, but after 48 hours
|#of Missed Assignments
||No more than 20% (6 days)
(no major assignments)
||More than 20 %
||4 or more
||2 or more
||2 or more assignments
What is the difference between an “assignment” and “major assignment”?
Major assignments are the formal essay we will write and the portfolio that is due at the end of the quarter; minor assignments are everything else.
Special or Extenuating Circumstances. If, by chance, you find you cannot complete some aspect of the contract due to an emergency situation, please set up a meeting to determine what kind of accommodations seem fair. You should come to me as soon as possible, preferably before you are unable to meet the contract requirements, so that we can make fair and equitable arrangements, ones that will be fair and equitable to all in the class and still meet the university’s regulations for participation, conduct, and workload in classes. Extenuating circumstances is NOT an “out clause” for anyone who happens to not fulfill the contract in some way; it is for rare and unusual circumstances out of your control. Remember, this can only be used one time. However, I encourage you to come talk to me immediately if something arises.
By staying in this course and attending class, you accept this contract and agree to follow it.