Over time, I have come to agree with teachers and researchers who have found that giving students grades does not enhance learning and may even be detrimental to it. There are many reasons for this. For example,

  • Learning is better achieved through intrinsic motivation (you want to learn) than extrinsic motivation (you want to get a good grade).
  • Learning involves taking risks and being comfortable with failure, and you are more likely to take risks if you are not worried that your grade is at stake.
  • Learning can happen in unexpected or unpredictable ways, and what you learn does not always match exactly what I think I am trying to teach you.
  • The quality of your learning does not always match the quality of your performance. One student’s “B” might take them more work and involve more learning and personal development than another student’s “A.” Similarly, the “A” student might take a risk and try something new in their writing, ending up with “B” quality work but having learned more than if they wrote an “A” paper that did not challenge them.

With this in mind, I will not be grading your work on individual assignments throughout the semester. I will provide feedback on your work in writing and through individual conferences, and I am always happy to meet with you in office hours or by appointment to discuss your work and your learning further.

Of course, Bonaventure requires that you receive a grade for this course, and I will submit midterm and final grades. However, you will be responsible for helping to determine and assign your grade based on your understanding of your learning and efforts this semester. Toward this end, you will complete a Midterm and Final Reflection where you will write about your experience in the course and make an argument for what grade you should receive.

Here are some guidelines to give you a sense for what to expect. In order to earn a B, you must achieve the following:

  • Regularly attend class (or otherwise keep up with main class activities) and complete assigned readings (see “Attendance” and “Content” below);
  • Meet the criteria (such as minimum length requirements and main objectives) for all main assignments;
  • Miss no more than one short assignment throughout the semester (to earn an A- or A for the semester, you cannot miss any short assignments);
  • Put in a good faith effort on all assignments (including revisions for main assignments), using our assignments as an opportunity to learn, challenge yourself, and do good work.

You can move into the B+, A-, or A range by exceeding these expectations, particularly through the amount of effort you put into the class and the quality of your work and your learning. You can move into the B- or C, D, or F range by failing to meet these expectations, particularly through a lack of effort or engagement with the class, failing to submit work, or submitting work that is incomplete or fails to demonstrate a good faith effort. I am happy to discuss grading expectations further if you have questions about how to achieve or avoid a particular grade.

AttendanceYou should arrive to class on time with all assigned readings and assignments completed. Our class does not have a set attendance policy in terms of the number of absences you are allowed, but your ability to succeed in the course depends on regular attendance and keeping up with class activities. I would strongly encourage you to attend every class meeting; if perfect attendance is not your thing, I would encourage you not to miss more than four classes.

If you are absent, be sure to check the schedule to see what you missed. I regularly post “notes” handouts with activities for the day, and it would help to look over the handout and complete the activities on your own. You are welcome to contact me to further discuss what you missed.

Late Work.  I am pretty flexible concerning late work as long as you let me know ahead of time. I would rather you spend the time you need on your writing in order to succeed, and if you need time beyond the deadline or due date to achieve that, I want you to take advantage of that time. That being said, excessive or unexcused late work will not be acceptable and will negatively impact your grade. If circumstances prevent you from being able to submit an assignment on time, you should discuss the situation with me in advance.

Content. While I expect you to complete all readings and in-class activities, I understand that certain types of content may be difficult for you to engage with depending on your experience and background. For example, reading or writing or talking about issues such as racism, sexism, abuse, assault, or harassment might be difficult if you have had traumatic experiences related to these issues. Many of my classes take up challenging content, and I will ask you to engage with this material and with your classmates to the best of your abilities, in a respectful and responsible manner. Taking up ideas and topics that make you uncomfortable can be a valuable part of learning. At the same time (again, depending on your background and experience), sometimes this content is too much – too personal, too closely associated with trauma, etc. – and engaging with it will be a negative rather than positive learning experience for you. If you ever need to opt out of a particular reading or in-class discussion or writing activity based on the content, please let me know and we can figure out another reading or activity that will help you accomplish the same learning objective.