Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Murphy's law approach to grading

Say that the assignment that you are grading is ambiguous, so that you are not sure what the students meant. One interpretation leads to a correct solution, the other one, to an incorrect solution. What to do then?

The Murphy's law approach: if something can go wrong, then it will be wrong. The student kept the writing ambiguous because he or she was not sure which specific interpretation was correct. Then, it should be counted as wrong.

But doesn't that contradict the mustard seed approach? Which approach will be taken then depends on ... on the grader's philosophy? on the grader's mood? on what he or she had for lunch? on some random coin flip, but decided consistently across all graders?


  1. The only fair way seems to be too complicated.

    If we treat the correctness of individual subanswers as individual "ratings" of the "correctness" of a student, then the pessimist approach suggests using

  2. One of the things that students should learn is to present their results clearly. I would have no problem marking the question wrong, with a comment in the margin: "I could not understand your algorithm; in the future please be more precise."


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