Grade Overview

Our primary concern is that you engage in achieving the learning objectives for this course. Your grade is a secondary concern to us, and if you are effectively learning your grade should be a moot point. However, we recognize how motivated some of you are by grades and we have attempted to provide clear guidelines (below) to help manage your expectations about what you need to do to earn the grade you want.

WATS 4930/6920

Your grade consists of lab-based work, a project and occasional quizzes (see assignments):
  • 9 Lab Reports (2%-15% each)                                              95%
  • Occasional Quizzes (Some in class and some on Canvas)       5%

WATS 4931/6921

Your grade consists entirely of project-based work (see Project Components):
  • Proposal, 3 Vignettes and Peer Review                               15%
  • Poster Presentation                                                                  15%
  • Final Project Manuscript                                                         70%

WATS 6915 

Your grade consists of lab-based work (see assignments):
  • 4 Lab Reports (2%-10% each)                                               95%
  • Occasional Quizzes (Some in class and some on Canvas)      5%

Grading Specifics:

Grading Scale

We will use a standard grading scale:
 % of Available Points
 A+ > 97%
 A < 97% to 93%
 A- < 93% to 90%
 B+ < 90% to 87%
 B  < 87% to 83%
 B-  < 83% to 80%
 C+  < 80% to 77%
 C  < 77% to 73%
 C-  < 73% to 70%
 D+  < 70% to 67%
 D  < 67% to 63%
 D-  < 63% to 60%
 F  < 60%

We do not grade on a curve, but in instances where no student in the class has earned the total number of available points, we may opt to adjust the total available points to the the maximum that any student has achieved.

Where to Get your Grades

Your provisional grades will be updated in Canvas as grades are completed. Please check your grades regularly and if you find any errors or mistakes, please notify us promptly. Final grades will be submitted at the end of the semester to Banner. When final grades are being decided, if you are a borderline case (e.g. > 89.5% but < 90%) I will look for evidence of extra effort through extra credit indicators, number of posts on the forums, etc.. If I see clear evidence of such effort, I may opt to bump your final grade to the next letter grade.

Breakdown of Grading Weights for WATS 4930/6920 & WATS 6915

Please note that points earned between assignments and quizzes are not necessarily equal. The points are simply used to calculate the percentage of total available points you earned. This is done independently for every assignment, and then the individual assignments are weighted as described below. Your performance (as a percentage of available total points) in the lab and quiz categories are then adjusted to the weights described above to calculate your total grade. 

Labs (95% of final grade)

All labs consist of a series of tasks. See the grading rubric for each lab on Canvas.

Quizzes (5% of final grade)

There will be between three and ten pop-quiz activities. The number of quizzes will depend partly on attendance - if attendance drops we will start having more quizzes. All quizzes will be graded pass-fail and weighted equally. The format of these quizzes will vary widely, but most are designed to help you gauge your own knowledge and assess where you are at with respect to the lecture material and readings. The grades from these are essentially participation points. If you attend class regularly, this should be the easiest free 5% you can earn. There will be NO makeup quizzes. If you miss a quiz due to a pre-excused absence, we will award you a pass. If you miss a quiz due to any other reason that was not cleared with the instructor prior to the absence, you will receive a fail.

Breakdown of Grading Weights for WATS 4931/6921

Project (100% of final grade)

Your project grade will consist of the following components:

  • These six project components are worth 30% of your grade:
    1. Project Proposal - 5 pts
    2. Data Prep Vignette - 5 pts
    3. Data Analysis Vignette 1 - 5 pts
    4. Data Analysis Vignette 2 -  5 pts
    5. Project Poster Presentation - 25 pts.  
    6. Project Peer Review - 5 pts
    • Project components 1-4 and 6 (proposal, vignettes and peer review) are worth half of the 30% (15% of total grade)
    • Poster Presentation (5) is worth theother half of the 30% (15% of total grade)
  • The Final Project Manuscript is worth 70% of your grade

For the project report or manuscript, we will use the following rubric:
 Performance Indicators ->
 Missing or Unacceptable  
 Need Improvement
 Meets Expectations
Clear identification of problem and objectives
Did project effectively address objectives?
 20 25
 0 3 4 5
 0 3 4 5
 0 3 4 5
 0 3 4 5
Appropriate Conclusions
 0 2 4 4
Future Work Identified
 0 1 2 3
Figures & GIS: Colorful
 0 1 23
Figures & GIS: Creative
 0 3 45
Figures & GIS: Consistent
 0 3 4 5
Figures & GIS: Context
 0 3 45
Figures & GIS: Convincing
 0 5 8 10
Figures & GIS: Correct

If you score exceptional in all categories, the maximum number of points you can earn for the final project report or manuscript is 100 points. If you only meet all the expectations,  you will earn 79.5 points (which would be calculated as a B-). Thus, to earn a B or better you should plan on earning exceptional marks in some of the categories.You will notice that a huge part of the project manuscript grade (25%) is based on how well you address the objectives that you define (for 10%).

The Six C's Rubric

The six C's rubric is an extension of my high school geometry teacher's (Mr. Cooper) 3 c's grading scheme for our project, which was colorful, creative and correct. It is designed to emphasize both the technical and artistic aspects that are essential to making effective maps. It is easy to make maps with GIS, but making good and effective maps (the work cartographers used to do) requires careful thought and skill. Cartography is a skill you can learn and need not become a lost art.

The 6 C's and their definitions are:
  1. Colorful -  (but not cluttered) An effective use of color to distingusigh features and emphasize key aspects of your map.
  2. Creative - (but not confusing) There are lots of creative ways to display your geographic data and analyses
  3. Correct - All analyses, calculations and labels are correct
  4. Context - (location, coordinates, projections, scale, orientation, setting) All maps should have enough context for the user to discern where it is, what its about and what the scale is within the context that its presented (e.g. stand-alone map vs. within a report).
  5. Convincing - (fit for purpose) All maps have a purpose, and your map should be effective at conveying the message it is intended to.
  6. Consistent There should be logical, graphical and typographic consistency both within a single map and amongst multiple maps in the same assignment or project.
For every lab, the 6 C's and other important grading criteria are spelt out for you in a lab-specific rubric on Canvas.  If you meet all the basic expectations, this will generally earn you a B. To earn an A, you need to do exceptional work. 


With a class of this size of 4930/6920, it is not feasible to provide detailed written feedback on every lab assignment. For the first few labs, we will provide more feedback then normal to help acquaint you with the grading system and expectations. The rubrics are designed to give you an idea (for each map you are required to include in your lab assignments) of where specifically you are doing well, versus where you need to improve. At the TA's discretion, more detailed written feedback may be provided. In general TA's will provide more detailed feedback when a) you have shown a lot of effort, but did not get it right; b) you have shown responsiveness to previous specific feedback and incorporated this in you new assignments; and/or c) you have demonstrated a genuine interest in learning the material and have sought help, clarifications and/or followed up on previous feedback.

In addition to the basic feedback (6 C's) and the discretionary written feedback on your assignments, we will provide the following:
  • To the entire class:
    • Specific feedback and answers to questions posted on the forums
    • General feedback about specific trends and problems encountered across the class for each lab assignment (this will happen at the beginning of labs)
    • We will encourage people to browse each others websites and provide comments on maps, vote in polls on maps, and we will nominate outstanding maps
  • To individuals upon request:
    • Verbal feedback elaborating on how their grade was arrived upon and how they can improve in the future
    • Written feedback for a specific map(s) in an assignment if requested

Procedure for Requesting an Explanation & Potential Reconsideration of Grade

We may occasionally get a grade wrong, or make a mistake in grading your work. It is your responsibility to check your grades and read the feedback and make sure we got it right. We are happy to explain how we arrived at a particular part of your grade (not the entire grade for an assignment as this is clear from the above information). We are also happy to fix your grades if we made a mistake.

The procedure for requesting an explanation for a specific grade (e.g. as part of a specific task) is simple. First approach the member of the teaching staff who graded your assignment (in person in lab or during office hours is best, but an email will suffice) and point out what has surprised or confused you about your grade (be specific) and ask for a clarification.

After hearing the explanation, if you wish to submit a formal request for us to reconsider your grade, please do so in the form of an email. Please make sure that it is worth requesting a reconsideration of your grade, because we will look at the entire assignment again and it is possible that your reconsidered grade may be lowered.

"Extra credit" work

We may assign extra credit problems for the labs. On occasion the TA’s and/or I may reward outstanding efforts with some extra credit where appropriate. In addition, extra credit will be awarded for those going above and beyond in helping their peers (includes in-lab evidence, discussion board evidence, etc.). Extra credit will never exceed 10% of the available points for any given assignment. Stay tuned…