Test 4 Grades

On the test, as usual, I gave plus and minus grades (A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc) which translate into a 100 point scale in my gradebook (100, 96, 92, 88, 85, 82, etc., down to 58, 55, 50 for F-level). The high score in the class was 56 out of a possible 58, not counting extra credit: I used 55 as the top, for simplicity, and a slightly extended scale for grades. The median score was B-, meaning that about as many people got above a B- or above as a B- or below; the average score was right between B- and C+. The extra credit was worth up to 5 points: Being Africa, fewer people attempted the extra credit, and the scores were, on the whole, not as helpful. Next time, I guess. Here’s how the grade scale worked out:

Grade minimum points distribution
A+ 55
A 51 20%
A- 47.5
B+ 45
B 42.5 30%
B- 40
C+ 37.5
C 35 20%
C- 32.5
D+ 30
D 27.5 25%
D- 25
F Below 25 5%

Not only did the average and median scores go up on this test, but most of you either equalled or exceeded your average score, which means that your overall grade either held steady or went up, in all but a few cases. Good work!

Unrelated Note: I’m already running a little behind on lectures for this section. I’ll be trying to catch up, but just in case, I’ve pushed the last document assignment due date back to Friday the 29th. This ensures that we’ve covered the relevant history before you have to turn it in.

Test 3 and Doc Assignment 3 Grades

On the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen assignment, I gave grades and plus grades (A+, A, B+, B, etc.) Here’s how the grade scale worked out, approximately:

Grade Level distribution
A 5%
B 20%
C 50%
D 20%
F 5%

On the test, I gave plus and minus grades (A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc) which translate into a 100 point scale in my gradebook (100, 96, 92, 88, 85, 82, etc., down to 58, 55, 50 for F-level). The high score in the class was 49 out of a possible 49, not counting extra credit, and I used a slightly extended scale for grades (if you’re not sure whether that helped you, just double your raw score to get your percentage score before the adjustment). The median score was C/C+, meaning that about as many people got above a C+ or above as a C or below; the average score was a solid C as well. The extra credit was worth up to 5 points: about a quarter of the people who attempted extra credit got no benefit; over half went up one grade level (B to B+, etc.), about a sixth went up two grade levels (B- to B+, etc.). Here’s how the grade scale worked out:

Grade minimum points distribution
A+ 49
A 45 15%
A- 43
B+ 41
B 39 25%
B- 37
C+ 35
C 33 25%
C- 31
D+ 29
D 27 25%
D- 25
F+ 23
F Below 23 10%

On a related note, I realized that my grading scale for the previous tests was based more on my experience with essay and short-answer tests than multiple choice tests. I’ve adjusted the grades on previous tests to compensate: B-level grades added a point; C-level grades 2 points; D-level grades 3 points; F-level grades 4 points. So your average may be a little higher than you think.

Some thoughts on the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen

In no particular order

  • Context/Author: most people mentioned either the Declaration of Independence (and sometimes the English Bill of Rights) or the Enlightenment (Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu), but almost nobody mentioned both. Similarly, many of you mentioned Lafayette’s American sojourn but ignored the fact that he was an educated Frenchman to begin with, well-versed in philosophe writings.
  • Responses: The United States did, generally, welcome the Declaration, but it also reacted very badly to the radical turn of the Revolution, eventually passing the Alien and Sedition acts to criminalize revolutionary positions and restrict French immigration. The Haiti slave revolts were very worrying to the plantation states as well. But buying the Louisiana Territory when Napoleon needed cash to try to put down the Haitian revolt was a good deal.
  • Historical Use: Similarly, very few people noted that the Declaration was only operative for a few years, though the principles it establishes do influence later French governments. The effect of the Declaration was both minimal in the short term and extraordinary in the long term. History’s a funny thing, sometimes.
  • I’m still writing “weak paraphrase” on too many papers. Summarizing or condensing primary sources is a challenge sometimes: the temptation to quote extensively is strong. If you’re not using exact quotes with quotation marks, though, what you write needs to be your words, not a slightly modified version of the words you read.

Don’t forget: the document assignment for Japan’s Meiji Constitution is due Monday the 28th.

Hope you’re having a fun and productive break!

Extra Credit Questions, or, Why I Don’t Do Multiple Choice On Tests

When I started grading the extra credit questions – my warmup to grading the test – I noticed that what I thought were ‘gimme’ questions had in fact produced a wide array of what I thought were incorrect answers. On reconsideration, and after consulting with some bemused colleagues, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of my questions was poorly constructed such that the correct answer was only obvious to me; on this question, anyone who answered anything gets half-credit, and anyone who answered correctly gets full credit. On the other question I’m holding the line, though, because nobody has given me a convincing argument that my options were prone to misinterpretation or “correct from a certain perspective” such that I should be lenient; only the correct answer will earn full credit.

Here are the questions:

Extra Credit Questions (Circle your answers below)

  1. Why was Japan an ally of Germany and Italy in World War Two?
    a. natural tactical and strategic advantages
    b. shared anti-communist, nationalist ideals
    c. “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”
    d. all of the above
  2. Why was the Soviet Union (USSR) an ally of the US and UK in World War Two?
    a. personal goodwill between leaders
    b. shared progressive, internationalist ideals
    c. “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”
    d. all of the above

The intended correct answers are (b) for question 1 and (c) for question 2.

On question 1, the defining characteristics of the Anti-comintern/Axis alliance are a shared committment to nationalism, imperialist expansion, totalitarian anti-democracy, and a violent antipathy to communism and socialism. The alliance forms after all three leave the League of Nations over their respective expansions. There’s little tactical advantage to the alliance – with the exception of the Soviet Union, and arguably the US, Japan and Germany had few common enemies, and they never coordinated their military strategies. Nonetheless, I can see where (c) is an easy mistake, and I can also see where people might think that there could be tactical or strategic components to the alliance. The most common answer given on this question – by a huge margin – was (d). I will accept (a), (c) and (d) for half-credit, and (b) will get full credit.

On question 2, the only historically acceptable answer is (c). Nobody liked Joseph Stalin personally; even when FDR and Churchill (and Truman) acknowledged his importance as an ally, they didn’t trust him any farther than they could throw him. Though the USSR might be described as ‘internationalist’, the US and UK had waged an open struggle against the spread of communist ideas and governments in the two decades following the Russian Revolution, and the USSR did not support the League of Nations or the Wilsonian movement it represented. In the absence of goodwill and shared ideals, (a), (b) and (d) are clearly incorrect answers. (C) answers get full credit. There was an almost exactly even distribution of answers: (b), (c) and (d) each got about 1/3rd of the responses; fortunately, only one person answered (a).

Oh, well. Nobody got a full 2 points extra credit, but everyone who attempted the questions got at least a half point. And this is why I don’t like multiple choice questions: it’s hard to design ones that are fair, historically interesting, and test understanding.