It's my first time teaching a college class as an instructor. My grade breakdown is as follows:
- Worksheets 15%
- Lab attendance and participation 15%
- Homework 40%
- Final Exam 30%
- Discussion forum 3% extra credit
I have two TAs who have been doing the homework and worksheet grading. I provided the rubric for the homework to my TAs and they told me that there was a "distribution" in the grades. But after the initial check-in, I never checked the grade distribution again.
Now it is the end of the term and after receiving the (published) homework grades from my TAs, I see that they have a 98% average with virtually all students having a grade above 95%. That is: 55% of the students' grades are nearly perfect.
The attendance and participation grades have not been published yet and the final exam has not been written. Since this is my first course as an instructor, I fear the department's response because the grades might be too high.
But irrespective of the department's response, I'd like to have a grade distribution that's a bit more spread out. I've been writing and re-writing reasons for wanting a grade distribution but it turns out finding these reasons is harder than I thought. I guess it's just an intuition.
Obviously, I'm to blame big time for not having more grade components, to begin with. I'm also partially to blame for not keeping up with my TA's grading but I also told them repeatedly that I was looking for a "distribution" on the homework and feel like they did not warn me that the grades were very high. It's too late for all of that now.
Be all of that as it may, my students will take their final exam soon and they have not received their participation grades yet. I would like to see a grade distribution that roughly ranks the students according to their skills and that makes the testing harder than it has been so far. What are my options, and which one is best? Make use of the participation grade? Make the final exam harder?
Thanks for the amazing support, your sympathy with my situation, and your helpful responses!
The class I'm teaching is an intro STEM class at a highly selective school. This particular STEM major is very popular, so I imagine that the department wants to use the grading scheme to reduce the number of students.
I based my homework assignments on those from a previous instructor who had a more stereotypical grade distribution. If anything I made them a bit harder. So it's probably the grading instructions to my TAs that led to the differences.
Few of you have said anything about the role of participation grades. Most students were not particularly engaged during lectures (despite me trying to interact with them and using tools like jamboards and surveys etc). So I've been considering not giving every student a 100% for participation but more like something centered around 90% and differentiating from there. I said nothing about the way participation would be graded in the syllabus.
I also didn't specify the grade cut-offs in the syllabus. AFAIK, I can determine the cut-offs myself, within reason. Some students will understandably be annoyed if the cut-off for an A is set at a 93%.