by Conrad Weisert
September 4, 2013
© 2013 Information Disciplines, Inc.
"In most programming classes . . . assignments are graded using automated test suites to
verify conformance to specs."
"Teaching Programming the Way It Works Outside the Classroom",
I suppose if I taught a course to 200 students, I'd have to rely on some sort of automated grading. However, in my long experience I've neither taken nor taught a course, either academic or commercial, in which assignments and examinations weren't graded by the instructor (or sometimes by an unusually well-qualified graduate assistant).
If the program is complicated, of course, we might also run it through an automated verification. We hope that was all that Dr. Guo had in mind, but we wish he hadn't said most programming courses.
What does it mean to say that a computer program "conforms to specs"? In an academic course what grade should such a program earn?
To avoid surprises and later arguments I always explain these grading criteria at the beginning of a course, usually in the syllabus.
We remind students that a grade of A signifies an outstanding achievement, well beyond the merely adequate. An A does not signify, as some students expect, that there was "nothing wrong". Sometimes it helps to cite parallels with other creative disciplines: If Ernest Hemmingway turned in a short story in a Creative Writing course and got an A, what grade should his classmate earn for a story that contained no mistakes in grammar or spelling?
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Last modified September 9, 2013