Liveblogging Grading: Essays (a brief note on sources) and Curves

I can tell the difference, most of the time, between an essay which directly tackles the primary sources and essays which use secondary sources Instead of looking at the originals. Nothing wrong with doing a little background reading — that’s what the textbook is for, after all — but the assignment doesn’t call for it, particularly. More importantly, while you may have written a clever and insightful essay based on these (and other) sources, if you don’t specifically address the primary source readings, you haven’t answered the question, which is reflected in your grade.


The good news is that the grades for the essays got heavily curved: because there were more than 50 multiple choice questions, the high score there was 51.33; so on a 100-point scale, with multiple choice as 50%, there was little grade benefit from using the top score (I used 50). On the essays, the highest letter grade evaluation I gave was B+, so I used that as the 50 point mark, as follows

Grade points distribution
B+ 50
B 48.5 15%
B- 47
C+ 45
C 43.5 37.5%
C- 42
D+ 40
D 38.5 37.5%
D- 37
F 35 10%

This is, obviously, a substantial bonus. As a result, the median and average test scores in the end were in the C+ range for people who took the test.

Speaking of grade adjustments, remember that the “Overall Course Grade” on your tests is also normed by the top grade in class.

Grading Blogging: Last of the Multiple Choices

Aside from some confusion between Axum and Ghana, and between Sufi, Shiite and Sunni (more about that later), the questions people had the most trouble on were

  1. In order to maintain “Bread and Circuses” for the citizens of Rome, the Collosseum was the site of
    1. gladatorial contests
    2. children’s festivals
    3. baking competitions
    4. all of the above
  2. 1001 Arabian Nightsgets its title from
    1. the knights of the Crusades
    2. the story of Scheherazade
    3. the tradition of daylight fasting
    4. Buddhist folktales

The answer to Q54 was not (d), and while 1001 Nights may have some connection to global traditions, that’s not what it’s mostly about.

Also, to my surprise, over half of the class chose not to attempt the extra credit.

Grading Blogging: Catching Up

The earthquake last night interrupted the grading (and blogging) a bit, but here’s where we are this morning. I have one more page of Multiple Choice to grade, including the extra credit, then it’s off to the essays!

The fourth page question which surprised me the most (aside from the one I gave up on) was:

  1. Under Islamic rule, some other religions were
    1. dharma, considered lower forms of rebirth
    2. dhimmi, acceptable religions with scriptures
    3. dhows, forced to move to new lands
    4. diwali, used as slaves
    5. all of the above

I know foreign language terms can be daunting, but over half missed this, chosing mostly (a), followed by (e) and (d). (d) might almost be reasonable, if the term ‘diwali’ didn’t refer to a Hindu festival of light (and if (b) weren’t an option!).

I was also a bit surprised by how many people (almost 1/3rd) selected the name of a Christian kingdom in Africa as the rulers of the first Islamic empire.


Grading Blogging: Halfway Through Multiple Choice

The questions that seem to be the most challenging are the ones that ask for something very specific, but include an ‘all of the above’ option. For example:

  1. The ultimate goal of Upanishadic Hinduism is
    1. mercy, charity, and forgiveness of sin
    2. reincarnation as a king, emperor or higher being
    3. reunion of the soul with the Brahman of the universe
    4. all of the above
  1. While some religions have state support, and some have missionary movements, all religions seem to be spread by
    1. letter-writing
    2. trade
    3. warfare
    4. all of the above

The number of actual ‘all of the above’ answers is down this time, sorry.

Looking over the fourth page, I ditched a question: poor question design, honestly. Seemed clever when I wrote it, but it just doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong answers properly:

  1. The conquest of the Abbasids by the Seljuk Turks was
    1. good for the Islamic state
    2. bad for the Islamic state
    3. good for the state but bad for Islam
    4. good for Islam but bad for the state

In the early stages, it looks like the slavery question is giving people trouble. We’ll see how it comes out in the end.

Grading Blogging: Two pages down….

Here are the questions people had the most trouble with on the first two pages. On the last two, yes, the answer is NOT ‘all of the above’ but about half the class picked it anyway. On the Five Principles, the Statement of Faith and Charity were the two pillars most frequently missed; I always have trouble remembering the first one, myself.

  1. The square-sailed, rudder-steered boats of Chinese traders were called
    1. biryani
    2. djinni
    3. junks
    4. stupas
  2. Disease, privatization, new religions, political disruption and lack of military control all played a role in the end of
    1. the Byzantine empire
    2. the Han dynasty
    3. the Mauryan Empire
    4. the Umayyad dynasty
  1. Although Ashoka’s empire did not last long after his death, he still
    1. conquered to the very southern tip of India
    2. established diplomatic relations with China and the Umayyads
    3. helped spread Buddhism within and beyond India
    4. all of the above
  1. The goal of Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path is to
    1. define a radical monotheism
    2. eliminate suffering by extinguishing desire
    3. promote social harmony by creating order
    4. all of the above


Extra Credit Opportunity: Austrian Organist

the Fisk Organ Recital Series, in cooperation with the Southeast Kansas Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, will present Austrian organist Wolfgang Reisinger in concert this Sunday, November 6, at 3 pm in McCray Recital Hall. Dr. Reisinger serves as director of music for the Archdiocese of Vienna and is one of that country’s premiere artist/teachers. He has prepared a very interesting program of diverse organ literature, and he will conclude the concert in typical European style, with an extended improvisation. This concert is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Susan Marchant in the Department of Music (x4476).

Extra Credit Opportunity: Diwali Night

Namaste and Hello Everyone !!!
The much awaited Diwali Event by the Indian Student Association is almost near.
The Diwali Night would be at the Crimson and Gold Ballroom, on 6th November, 2011 from 05:00 PM until 06:30 PM.
The event would feature Indian cultural events such as Bhangra Dance, Bollywood Songs, Indian Ethnic Fashion Show, Fire Works Show, a delicious mouth watering Indian Cuisine and a lot more to look out for. Come, be part of it, and experience the Indian culture closely.
The tickets for the event would be available at the International Programs and Service Office, 118 Whitesitt Hall.
The tickets would be priced at $ 12.

Extra Credit Opportunity: Poet Geoffrey Nutter

The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at Pittsburg State University will feature poet Geoffrey Nutter. Nutter will be reading some new poems as well as from his most recent book Christopher Sunset at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3, in the Governors Room of PSU’s Overman Center. The event is free and open to the public. Following the reading, there will be a reception in the Heritage Room of the student center.

Nutter, who is assistant professor of creative writing at New York University, has a writing style that has been described as “powered equally by sunlight, virtue, wonder, and humility.” Former student Montreux Rotholz, now a poet and creative writing professor at University of Iowa, describes Nutter’s work enthusiastically: “Geoffrey’s poetry is morosely optimistic and remorselessly lush. It frolics. It tells ghost stories and frightens the children. Often the poems feel grand, sweeping, but they have, sunk in them, little wells of clear and beautiful image. All this to say, he is an enormously talented poet.”

Nutter has had three books published: A Summer Evening in 2001 (winner of the Colorado Prize), Water’s Leaves & Other Poems in 2005, and Christopher Sunset in 2010. His poems have been widely anthologized, including in The Best American Poetry, The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries and Isn’t It Romantic: 100 Poems by Younger American Poets.

This will be the third event in the annual Distinguished Visiting Writer series, which brings nationally acclaimed authors, poets and writers to PSU. The DVWS is sponsored by the English department and the Student Fee Council.