10/9/04

A student writes:

Dr. Patt, I was hoping that it would not be necessary to waste your time (and mine) with this, but it has gotten ridiculous and I think that you should know. There have been grading mistakes on all 3 of the 3 problems sets that I have received back. I have talked to a couple of other students who have also experienced problems with the grading on their problem sets. Problem set 1b - Problem 2 part c was marked wrong although I had clearly written that the answer was + infinity. Problem set 2 - Problem 4 was left ungraded and I did not receive any points for it. Problem set 3 - On problem 1 part f, I wrote down the gates for the following equation Y[2] = A[1] A[0]' B[1] + A[1] A[0] B[1] B[0]' which, as I would imagine that any EE grader should know, is equivalent (according to Boolean algebra) to Y[2] = A[1] A[0]' B[1] B[0]' + A[1] A[0]' B[1] B[0] + A[1] A[0] B[1] B[0]' I know that grading is a tedious and thankless job that, much like umpiring or refereeing, at best goes unnoticed and unappreciated. However, it is a little bit frustrating when I have to take time to get each of these mistakes corrected. Let me also take this opportunity to tell you that, on a more positive note, I am enjoying the class immensely. Thanks for your time. << name withheld to protect the rightfully disgruntled >>

I decided to share this with all of you since there may be others with this problem, and I want to be sure you all understand what is going on, and that you know what to do if you find something has been graded incorrectly.

I am sympathetic to the student's complaint. I would also be upset if I received back homework, a programming assignment, or an exam where I was graded incorrectly. But, I think it is important to put the whole thing in context, which I will try to do.

First, the department does not provide enough grading support to allow us hire enough graders to carefully check all possibilities of each answer. That is why the grader may miss an alternative correct answer. When a grader is given hundreds of problem sets to grade and given a solution sheet AND told they need to be graded very quickly because students need quick feedback on how they are doing on the problem sets, the results are going to be less than perfect. Some alternative correct answers will not get checked. Some problems will not get graded, because the grader inadvertently skipped over it. How much "imperfect" is acceptable is another question. I did interview over 30 students who wanted the grading job, and picked what I think are the best two. But, yes, they will make mistakes.

So, what to do about it? First, please, a little understanding since we do not have the luxury of as much grading talent as we would like. Second, look at the solution sheets that we post on the web page, comparing what you have written to what was expected. If there is a discrepancy (or several discrepancies), show it to any of the TAs, who will either regrade your paper on the spot, or if the TA thinks it is necessary, will show it to me. I guarantee you will not be shortchanged if you bring it our attention. I wish it were not necessary for you to have to be proactive on this, but with almost 400 students, I have very little choice.

Finally, a word about grading errors on the exams. The TAs and I grade all the exams, and again, we try our best to grade them correctly. But, we too are human, and we too make mistakes. If you feel there has been a grading mistake on your exam, please bring it to the attention of your TA during discussion section. The TA and I will go over your exam together, and I will make the determination as to whether I feel an error has been made. Obviously, if an error has been made, I will correct it and change your grade accordingly (either up or down, depending on the grading error that was made!). If the grading error involves only one or two points, you should still feel free to bring it to our attention if you wish, although realistically, it is very unlikely that it will affect your final grade in the course.

Please do check your exam against the solution sheet. By the way, you should always do that anyway, and not just to check on the grading. It is important to your total understanding of the concepts to go over the solution sheet and see where you made a mistake and figure out what I was getting at by each problem on the exam. The concepts tested may get tested again before we part company in December. And, even if they don't, they will form an important foundation for your work in subsequent semesters.

Good luck with the rest of the course.

Yale Patt