Grading Specifications

Introduction

Your grade in DIG 215 corresponds to your success in meeting the course’s five learning objectives. Individual assignments are evaluated on a pass or fail basis. This style of grading is called specifications grading, and you can read more about it on Inside Higher Ed. Certain elements of this method were also inspired by Professor Jason Mittell’s implementation of specifications grading at Middlebury College and conversations with Professor Churchill here at Davidson.

In general, the more learning objectives you meet, the higher your grade.

All students who pass DIG 215 (indicated with a C grade) will be able to:

  • Apply specific discursive and theoretical concepts to the analysis of representations of death in 21st century popular culture
  • Describe significant cultural shifts in the relationship between death and technology over the past 100 years

All students who achieve a higher degree of mastery (indicated by a B grade) will be able to achieve all of the above plus:

  • Create original multimodal work that communicates informed theoretical and speculative perspectives on some aspect of death and technology
  • Engage in intellectually valuable discussions about culture and technology

All students who achieve the highest degree of mastery (indicated by an A grade) will be able to achieve all of the above plus:

  • Analyze literary, cinematic, ludic, or theoretical perspectives of death, horror, and disaster in the 21st century with original insights, evidence-based reasoning, effective use of sources, and awareness of multiple perspectives and cultural contexts

Grade “Bundles”

Individual assignments for DIG 215 do not receive a letter grade. Instead, each assignment will either be considered Unsatisfactory or Satisfactory. That’s it. Your work either meets the stated specifications or it doesn’t. Don’t think of Satisfactory as merely passing the assignment (like a C grade); Satisfactory means you have succeeded in the assignment and demonstrated a firm understanding of the material and a solid execution of the project. Major projects have one level above Satisfactory, called Sophisticated. Sophisticated work demonstrates an excellent grasp of the material combined with originality and a superb sense of style ad argument.

This being Davidson, I do have to assign a final grade that represents the quantity and quality of your work. Final grades consist of “bundles” of your work for the class.

The C Bundle

Students who complete the following will pass the course with a C:

  • Actively attend all course meetings, with up to 5 absences, per the attendance policy
  • Complete at least 6 blog posts at a Satisfactory level
  • Complete all 3 projects at a Satisfactory level

B Bundle

Students who complete the following will pass the course with a B:

  • Actively attend all course meetings, with up to 3 absences, per the attendance policy
  • Complete at least 7 blog posts at a Satisfactory level
  • Complete 2 projects at a Satisfactory level and 1 project at a Sophisticated level

A Bundle

Students who complete the following will pass the course with an A:

  • Actively attend all course meetings, with up to two absences, per the attendance policy
  • Complete at least 8 blog posts at a Satisfactory level
  • Complete a 9th reflective blog post
  • Complete 1 project at a Satisfactory level and 2 projects at a Sophisticated level
  • Complete the original argumentative essay (i.e. final project) at a Satisfactory level

Pluses and minuses (A-, B+, etc.) will be used when your work falls in between bundles. For example, if you fall just short of the A Bundle specifications by missing a blog post, you’d receive an A-.

Tokens

Over the course of the semester you can earn up to 3 virtual tokens. Each token can be exchanged for one of the following:

  • Strike an absence from your attendance record
  • Hand in a project up to 48 hours late
  • Count an uncompleted or Unsatisfactory blog post as Satisfactory
  • Revise and resubmit an Unsatisfactory  project in order to fulfill Satisfactory expectations (due 1 week after project is returned)
  • Revise and resubmit a Satisfactory project in order to fulfill Sophisticated expectations (due 1 week after project is returned)

Earning Tokens

To earn a virtual token you must contribute what’s called a “Sightings” post to the class blog. A sighting post identifies some phenomenon related to our class material “in the wild”—online elsewhere, in the news or media, in pop culture, or offline. The sighting post then explicitly connects the phenomenon to theories and perspectives we’ve encountered in class.

To count as a token, each sighting post must meet the following criteria:

  • Include a descriptive title and posted under the “Sightings” category
  • At least 300 words in length
  • Include at least one illustrative piece of media (an image, a GIF, an embedded video, audio, etc.). Illustrative means that the media is directly related to the phenomenon you’ve sighted. The media must be fully sourced.
  • Connect the sighting to the class material, using the appropriate terminology and concepts.
  • Written in a clear manner, less formal than a conventional paper but still serious and rooted in evidentiary-based reasoning
  • Contain no more than 3 grammatical or spelling errors
  • Practice standard procedures for writing online, including hotlinking text (instead of dropping in unlinked URLs in the body of your post), embedding videos properly, etc.