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Regarding to a course for undergraduates (especially in computer science, but i would love to hear opinions from others too):

Is it okay to assign free marks for assignments? Meaning, the students who submitted the assignments will be assigned full marks.

If yes, in total how much percentage of free marks you assign from the overall 100% of the course? Is 30-40% too much? How many assignments do you give?

This is because, students tend to discuss or copy paste the assignments from friends. And I don't want them to do that because of fear of losing marks. When I say I don't deduct marks for a particular exercise, I see that some students are willing to take the challenge and be creative with their answers, although their answers sometimes are wrong. I believe that people learn from mistakes.

But people might question me if I just give them full marks for 30~40% from the overall course marks. I couldn't measure whether I am too lenient, unbelievable, too dumb, etc, because of lack of experience.

So please, any opinion would be appreciated.

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I would not assign a very high percentage of the overall course grade based on "participation." I currently assign 10% to homework (although this could become as much as 15%, as I have a 5% "floating" component that I set equal to the best overall individual component of the grade).

The reason for not setting "participatory" components to be too large is that you lose the ability to make more meaningful distinctions between students under such a system. The smaller the scale available, the less room you have to distinguish between above average, average, and below average students.

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This heavily depends on your country, institution and position (most professors can get away with everything in regard of teaching if they research well).

In my country in Central Europe, this strategy is in universities not unheard of (because of the arguments you mention). One of my high school teachers even claimed that she is not allowed to give marks about the content of the homework, only about whether we did it in time, read the assignment careful and wrote comprehensively.

Of course, you could also make the homework weigh less.

Personally, I like this approach if you not mark the contents but whether or not they tried the tasks in a reasonablr fashion.

  • It means that, some kind of marking is still needed, right? I would need to define "tried the tasks in a reasonable fashion" if I don't mark the content then. Thank you for your reply. – kate Dec 2 '17 at 17:22
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While I like the general idea, out of experience I can tell you that it might not work as well as you expect. For one course, we had too many students and not nearly enough TAs. So as it was impossible to correct everything, we had to change our approach and reduced the grading criterion to "reasonable tried to solve the exercise problem", i.e. "not just copied the question". Nearly all of the grade was determined by the final exam anyway.

Despite having explicitly announced this, whenever I sampled what they handed in, a lot of it was definitely copied (by hand) from somewhere else. Whenever we reused an exercise, they even copied the official solutions somebody handed down from the previous year.

What worked a bit better was to give them a voluntary assignment, which was corrected as hard as in the exam but would not count for the final grade at all. However even there I saw some too identical solutions and of course many did not even hand in anything.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience, this is very helpful. – kate Dec 6 '17 at 6:23

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