Specification Grading

In several of my courses, I apply a grading format known as specification grading. This is a fairly new concept, and will probably not be similar to other courses you have experienced. Assignments will all be graded as credit/no credit based on clearly communicated criteria. For an exam or quiz, you will have to answer a certain number of questions correctly, whereas for a discussion question, credit will be awarded for meeting a minimum word count and attempting to answer the question conscientiously. The criteria will be made clear for each assignment as it is posted.

Your overall grade in the course will depend upon the number of assignments completed, and possibly on the order in which they are completed. Since lab exercises often assume skills which were taught in earlier exercises, you will not be able to get credit for any lab exercise without having completed all previous exercises. For complex assignments, such as a term project, the assignment will be scaffolded so that receiving full credit requires completing early milestones (such as proposals and drafts) in addition to completing the culminating assignment (paper, research poster, analytical report, etc.).

Revise and Resubmit

Some assignments will be only be given a single chance for credit, but for many assignments, you will be expected to revise and resubmit until the assignment meets the specifications. For computer software exercises, it is quite problematic for you to not demonstrate mastery of the software. Therefore, you will be expected to redo your work until your submission satisfies the specifications of the assignment.


Class time (including so-called “Lecture”) should be an opportunity for you to ask questions and discuss ideas with other students. There is a considerable degree of unplanned learning that takes place during class time. Therefore, attendance is crucial. Your attendance, expressed as a percentage of class meetings you are present for, will also be the highest final grade you can possibly earn. That is, if you are present for 24 out of 28, or 85.7% of class meetings, your maximum grade in the course is a B regardless of the quality of any other work you submitted. (See table below.) An exception is that missing 2 classes in a 28-meeting course or 1 class in a 14-meeting course falls just below the 93% cutoff for an A, but I will still assign an A (as opposed to an A-) if your other work warrants it.

Meetings Attended (course meets twice a week) Meetings Attended (course meets once a week) Percent Attendance Maximum Grade
28 14 100.0% A
27 96.4% A
26 13 92.9% A
25 89.3% B+
24 12 85.7% B
23 82.1% B-
22 11 78.6% C+
21 75.0% C
20 10 71.4% C-
19 67.9% D+
18 9 64.3% D
17 60.7% D
16 or fewer 57.1% F