Contract Grading

In this class, you’ll decide in advance whether you’ll receive an A, a B, or a C. (Lower grades at my discretion.) The requirements for each of these grades follow. You can read more about the rationale for this method of grading here. Many of your questions about this method of grading may be answered here.

An A Grade

  • Miss a maximum of two classes
  • Miss a maximum of one blog post
  • Participate with good faith and generosity in all classroom discussions and exercises.
  • Complete the midterm evaluation with sincere self-reflection and thorough familiarity with course readings and discussions.
  • Meet deadlines for all final project milestones.
  • Submit a final paper that adheres to all requirements and is substantially revised in response to my comments and those of your classmates on your rough draft.
  • Complete a final exam that both demonstrates familiarity with class discussions and readings and shows that you’ve made new and original connections.
  • Meet with me twice over the course of the quarter to discuss your performance in the class, areas of improvement, and lingering questions.

A B Grade

  • Miss a maximum of three classes
  • Miss a maximum of two blog posts
  • Participate with good faith and generosity in all classroom discussions and exercises.
  • Complete the midterm evaluation with sincere self-reflection and familiarity with course readings and discussions.
  • Meet deadlines for all final project milestones.
  • Submit a final paper that adheres to all requirements and shows that you’ve responded to your classmates’ and my suggestions on your rough draft.
  • Complete a final exam that demonstrates familiarity with class discussions and readings.

A C Grade

  • Miss a maximum of four classes
  • Miss a maximum of three blog posts
  • Participate with good faith and generosity in all classroom discussions and exercises.
  • Complete the midterm evaluation with sincere self-reflection and familiarity with course readings and discussions.
  • Meet deadlines for all final paper milestones.
  • Submit a final paper that adheres to most requirements.
  • Complete a final exam that demonstrates familiarity with most class discussions and readings.

Why am I doing this?

I hate grading. It’s not the work that bugs me; it’s the transformation of a complicated, nuanced, and (ideally) supportive relationship into a mercenary transaction. Moreover, students come to my classes from many different backgrounds and with many different kinds of expertise. I don’t like measuring this wildly varying work according to one simplistic scale.

Thus, rather than play the role of adversary, which is time-consuming and draining for me, I’ve chosen to spend my energy teaching and to leave the decisions about grades in your hands.

It’s not a perfect system — in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have grades at all — but it’s my best effort to honor my students as a mature, complicated, intelligent, curious human beings.

For more on contract grading, see Jane Danielewicz and Peter Elbow, “A Unilateral Grading Contract to Improve Learning and Teaching,” College Composition and Communication, 2009, 244–68.

Frequently Asked Questions








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