Grading Philosophy

No Pain, No Gain

You may recall the principle "No Pain, No Gain," routinely applied to the challenge of developing a physically fit body. I am strongly committed to this principle, at least as it applies to that most important muscle, the human brain. While the brain is not really a muscle, the sentiment applies nonetheless. You can’t learn and grow intellectually if you don’t exercise your brain and its mental capacities. Just as your muscles must be challenged to grow and expand, so too must you challenge your brain if you desire to expand its capacities. Philosophy is not easy; you might think of it as an ultimate challenge, an extreme sport for the mentally fit. Philosophy should not be about memorizing facts and cramming for exams. Rather, we should be challenged to learn what it means to think philosophically and critically.

Doing well as a student of philosophy is not easy, it requires hard work, a willingness to persevere, a delight in mental challenges, sometimes even the suspension of disbelief. I will help you meet this challenge but the hard work must ultimately be yours. No one else can exercise your muscles or your mind for you. You must be up to the challenge. Keep in mind that educational experts recommend that you spend a minimum of two hours studying for each hour you spend in class.

My grading policy reflects the sentiment expressed by "No Pain, No Gain." I want you to do well in this course and I want to give you a good grade for your hard work. But you must demonstrate that you have earned that grade. Your grade should, so to speak, exhibit your mental fitness. The harder you apply yourself, the better will be your grade. We should all hold ourselves up to the very highest of standards.

What does this mean for you?  This means that you should be prepared in this course to routinely do the following:

It is important that you be aware that I expect students in my courses to do a lot of work outside of class. Indeed, as is pointed out elsewhere on the web, most college teachers deliberately plan their courses so that you and the other students will do most of your reading and learning outside of class.

How much time should you plan on studying outside of class? The rule of thumb for all college courses is an expectation that you’ll spend two hours doing work outside class for each hour spent in class; for a three-hour course, that’s a minimum of six hours a week studying. If you are enrolled with a full load of 15 credits, you should expect to be studying at least 30 hours a week, making going to college a fulltime commitment.

If you are a new college student, this might come as a surprise, as many students report that they had no homework in high school. You should be aware that college is generally much more intense than high school. I will assume that you are an active, responsible learner who is committed to doing the work that is necessary in order to succeed. As noted elsewhere on the web: Many students who get poor grades simply do not realize how hard the students who get high grades are working.  Some can study 10 to 15 hours a week outside of a difficult class. 

Instructor Expectations: A fine web site prepared by Sam Houston State University is available outlining what most instructors expect their students to do, and I encourage you to check it out.


This web site discusses the following instructor expectations:

  1. Instructors assume student freedom.
  2. Instructors expect that students will do a lot of work outside of class.
  3. Instructors expect that when students are puzzled they will ask questions in class.
  4. Instructors expect that students will visit them in their office.
  5. Instructors expect that students will take notes in class.
  6. Instructors expect that students will do homework and reading assignments on time.
  7. Instructors expect that students will be active learners.

In grading your work, I will adhere strictly to the following grading guidelines as listed in the York College Faculty Manual and included in the Student Handbook:

4 (Excellent): This grade denotes accomplishment that is truly distinctive and decidedly outstanding. It represents a high degree of attainment and is a grade that demands evidence of originality, independent work, an open and discriminating mind, and completeness and accuracy of knowledge.

3.5 (Very Good): This grade denotes mastery of the subject matter. It represents very good achievement in many aspects of the work, such as initiative, serious and determined industry, the ability to organize work, and the ability to comprehend and retain subject matter and to apply it to new problems and contexts.

3 (Good): This grade denotes considerable understanding of the subject matter. It represents a strong grasp and clear understanding of the subject matter and the ability to comprehend and retain course content.

2.5 (Above Average): This grade denotes above average understanding of the subject matter. It represents a good grasp of the subject matter and the ability to comprehend and retain course content.

2 (Average): This grade denotes average understanding of the subject matter. It represents the grade that may be expected of a student of normal ability who gives the work a reasonable amount of time and effort.

1 (Below Average): This grade denotes below average understanding of the subject matter. It represents work that falls below the acceptable standard.

0 (Failure): This grade denotes inadequate understanding of the subject matter. It signifies an absence of meaningful engagement with the subject matter and that the student is not capable of doing or understanding the work or has made little or no effort to do so.

I (Incomplete): The student may request permission from the instructor to receive an incomplete prior to the final examination and must present extraordinary reasons for the petition. The instructor should indicate on the Attendance/Final Grade Record the required work the student must do to complete the course. Grades of "I" not removed within two calendar months after the end of the semester will automatically be changed to "0" in the Records Office. Grades of incomplete should only be provided to students who have completed a substantial portion of all course requirements.

W (Withdrawal): Students are permitted to withdraw from courses without penalty up to the ninth Friday of the fall or spring semester. Corresponding deadlines are set for all other semesters (e.g., summer sessions). Withdrawal after that time shall result in a grade of "0."

P (Pass): This grade denotes passing in special Pass/Fail courses.

F (Fail): This grade denotes failure in special Pass/Fail courses.

AU (Audit): This grade indicates that a student is registered for a course but receives no credit.


Determining Your Grade: York College does not have official guidelines for determining the precise standards for what constitutes each grade. In my courses, I provide a series of opportunities for you to receive points. At the end of the semester I will simply add up the points you have received and assign a grade according to the following scale:

4.0 94% - 100% of the available points
3.5 88% - 93% of the available points
3.0 82% - 87% of the available points
2.5 76% - 81% of the available points
2 70% - 75% of the available points
1 60% - 69% of the available points
0 59% or less of the available points