Grading Policy

The material on this page is organized as follows:

  1. Final Grades
  2. Letter Grades
  3. Late Homework Problems Policy
  4. Exercise and Quiz Grades, Missing Exercises or Quizzes
  5. Team Work
  6. Cheating
  7. Discussion, Cooperation, and Collaboration

Final Grades

You will receive a grade for each homework, exercise, quiz, and exam (including the final exam). An estimate of your final grade will be made by taking a weighted average of these grades, with the total weight on homeworks being 50%, the total weight of the quizzes being 10%, and the total weight of the exams being 40%. Each exam is weighted equally with the others; no extra weight is given to the final exam. Each exercise and quiz is weighted equally with the others. Each homework point counts equally, but some homeworks have (far) more points than others.

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Letter Grades

Your grade is independent of anyone else's grade in this class (except for those in your team); that is, we do not grade on a curve. Everyone can get an A in this class. Our purpose in grading is to uphold a standard of quality and to give you feedback, it is not to rank students.

Instead of using curve grading as a final defense against problems that are too hard, we use the following policy. If a problem on a homework, quiz, or exam is so hard that most students do not "get it", then we will eliminate it from the exam, quiz, or homework grading. If this problem was appropriate, then we will teach how to solve problems like it, and give a similar problem on another exam, quiz, or homework. If it was not appropriate, then we will ignore it. If you detect such a problem on a homework, let us know about it as soon as possible, as it will save us all a lot of work.

The grading in this class will include subjective components. For example, the grading of requirements and designs is subjective. We will give some points for clearly presented work (including clear English). But the main determination will be on how well your solutions work.

As an informal specification of a grading scale for subjective work, "A" work is excellent work, showing careful thought and a thorough understanding of the material, especially with creativity, and "B" work shows an adequate understanding of the material.

Although we will not always make fine distinctions in points the nominal minimum standards are given by the following table.


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Late Homework Problems Policy

The late policy for homework problems that are individual work problems is designed to encourage you to:

but to hand it in eventually in any case. To allow the TA to grade what you have handed as soon as possible, only one version of any problem, the first you hand in, will be accepted.

Like all homework, late homework problems must be printed and handed in to a staff member, email will not be accepted. If you can't find your TA to turn in late homework problems, turn them in to me or the department office. If you give it to someone in the office, be sure to have them note the time on it.

Homework problems are due at the beginning of the lecture meetings, not five minutes after it starts. However, you can turn in just the problems that you have finished; we don't require you to turn in entire homeworks at once. The late penalties only apply to those problems you turn in late.

We do give partial credit for homework, so you will have to balance the gain from waiting to get a good version of a problem and the loss from handing the problem in late. In general, we encourage you to hand in a good version of each problem, but if you are late (and have been trying), consider that as a sign that you need help on the concepts, and get help from us!

Homework problems that are late receive points based on the following table.

When Handed In Percentage Penalty
if answer(s) are given in class 10% (or more due to time)
by 5pm the day after the due date 5%
at the next lecture meeting 10%
by 1 week after due date 25%
by 2 weeks after due date 40%
by 3 weeks after due date 55%
by 4 weeks after due date 70%
later or during last week of classes 100%

For example, if a homework problem is due on Thursday in class, but you turn it in by 5pm Friday, you will have 5% of what would have been your score subtracted; thus if the problem was 25 points, and you earned 20 of them, your score would be recorded as 19 points, due to the 5% penalty. If you turned the same thing in on the following Tuesday, your penalty would be 10%, so your score would be recorded as 18 points. However, if an answer to the problem was given in class, then even turning it in by 5pm on Friday you would have a 10% penalty (and so your score would be recorded as 18 points).

Absolutely no credit for late homework problems will be given during the last week of classes (or later!), or for homework problems turned in later than 4 weeks after the due date.

If you are consistently late with homework, we may stop accepting your late homework problems.

Team projects should use scope reduction instead of being turned in late. We will explain what this means in class. If you still turn in a team project late, we will, however, use the scale given above.

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Grading of Exercises and Quizzes, Missing Exercises or Quizzes

Exercises are small take-home assignments associated with the readings. Quizzes are small tests given in class to prompt questions associated with readings. Both are used primarily to make the class more interactive. In both cases, we will give you the option of either answering or describing what about the reading was confusing.

Exercises are graded on whether you did them and on whether you did them on time. You receive 2 points for each exercise you do and hand in on time, 1 point for each one you do and hand in by the following class period, and 0 points otherwise.

Quizzes are also graded on whether you did them or not. You receive 2 points for each quiz you do during class and 0 points otherwise. There is no way to make up or do a quiz late.

In figuring your final grade, all quizzes and exercise points count equally. Your exercise and quiz grade will be based on the total scores from all but the lowest 2 exercises and quiz grades. Because we drop the lowest 2 quiz grades, there are no excuses accepted for missing exercises or quizzes.

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Teams and Teamwork

Much of the homework in this class is to be done in teams of 3-4 people. There are two reasons for doing teamwork in this class. The first is that most software systems that need an analysis and design process are large enough to require teamwork; hence this is a valuable job skill. The second is that, according to studies, you learn more effectively when you participate in group discussions.

In a team, you will all depend on each other, but yet will be individually accountable for your own learning (on tests). You will have to develop your interpersonal skills. These skills are important in the business world.

The following discusses the grading policies and procedures at apply to such teams.

Problems, Changing Membership

Once a team is formed, it should not change members during the semester. That is, the members commit to working together for the rest of the semester.

If there is a problem in the team, you should come (preferably as a team) to talk to the instructor (Gary). We will try to straighten it out.

Team Facilitator

One team member will be designated the team facilitator for each assignment. We will hold the facilitator responsible for making sure that everyone gets a fair chance to talk, and that everyone understands everything. The aim of this job is to ensure that everyone participates to the maximal extent possible.

In addition, the team facilitator may have other responsibilities, but those are solely to be decided by the team.

Once you have been a team facilitator on a homework, you may not be a team leader again until every other student in your team has been a team facilitator. (If the facilitator does not show up to a meeting, some one else may serve; but this should then be brought to the attention of the staff.)

You team may have other jobs that rotate as well such as a recorder, technical lead, etc. If you have such jobs, you should give everyone a chance at them also.

Teamwork Contributions

The teamwork process is up to the individual teams. However, each student in the team is responsible for understanding the work in the team, thus teams should be very careful to have the whole team check and explain parts of the work if it is split up. You, as a team member, should be sure that you understand all that goes on and that you take on a fair share of the work.

Certifying Contributions

To help make sure work contributions are rewarded fairly, we have the team rate the work contributions of its team members at the end of each homework. Individual contributions are rated on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being highest, and 1 lowest. These are used to adjust the grades of team members above and below the team's grade. A rating X produces an increment to an individual's grade of (X - 3)*2.5%, which is added to the team's grade recorded for the individual (as long as the sum is between 0 and 100%).

For example, suppose Alice is in a group whose homework got 80%, and her individual rating was 5; then Alice's grade is recorded as 85%. In the same group if Bob has an individual rating of 2, then his grade is recorded as 77.5%.

The team is constrained to make the total individual work ratings average to 3, and all members must agree on the contributions of all other members. The certification of individual contributions is to be done using a standard form, which is available as a MS Word document and as a HTML page and as a text file.

A Suggestion for Improving the Group Process

We also suggest (but do not require) that at the end of each homework the team explicitly discuss:

  1. What the team did that worked well,
  2. What aspect of the team needs improvement, and
  3. What (if anything) will be done differently on the next assignment.
This should be an honest assessment, and is intended to get the team talking about what is happening, improve the process, and to keep us informed of how your team is working.

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The simple rule of thumb is:

Never give finished answers to someone else (or another team) or use someone else's finished answers.

Such exchanges are definitely cheating and not cooperation. However, note that on team homework, there can be no cheating within a team.

We will take action if we catch you cheating on a test or exchanging code or written answers. Read the section on academic dishonesty in the section on academic regulations in the Iowa State University Bulletin.

If you honestly believe that certain problems are too much busy work, then bring it to the instructor's attention; or failing that, only do the part of the problem that you think you need to do to learn the material and explain that to us.

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Discussions, Cooperation, and Collaboration

You are encouraged to discuss homework, and other parts of the class with other students. Certainly discussions within a team about team homeworks are fine and no harm comes from them. Even between teams, such discussions about ideas are not cheating, whereas the exchange of finished, written answers is cheating. However, when you have more than casual discussions about homework with students in other teams, or about homework that is not team homework with students in your own team, then you must cite the other person as described below.

When you cooperate on solution ideas or collaborate on producing final answers with other teams, you must cite the other teams you worked with as follows. This must be done for each problem on which you cooperate or collaborate. (That is, if you work with someone on a problem, you don't need to work with them on the entire homework.)

Note that substantial collaboration on solutions between teams that is not cited as described above is considered cheating. Such cheating will be dealt with as described above. It should be clear that you will learn less by such exchanges of finished answers.

Finally, if you use reference materials (other than the course texts) to solve a problem, you must give a citation. This includes material from the web. Not doing so is plagiarism (i.e., cheating). We take plagiarism quite seriously, so note this policy well.

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Last modified Monday, August 2, 2004.

This web page is for the Fall 2004 offering of Com S 362 at Iowa State University. The details of this course are subject to change as experience dictates. Students will be informed of any changes. Please direct any comments or questions to the course staff.