Course Requirements and Assessment


It is expected that you will spend several hours per week outside class time reading, researching, reflecting, and writing. The course works by building from one project to the next so being unprepared or submitting late detract significantly from the learning possible in class sessions. You keep track of your submissions and revisions on your own copy of a checklist of the presentations, written assignments, and participation items. An unconventional assessment system complements the innovative pedagogy. It is designed to keep the focus on interaction around written work and participation in the unfolding dynamics of the course. The initial submission of a written product from each project is commented on by one instructor, but not graded. In response to comments received from your peers and instructors on your presentation for the project and initial submission, you undertake further inquiry, revise thoughtfully, and resubmit. The product is recorded as completed provided it is evident that you have undertaken further inquiry and rethinking to address comments. For course participation you undertake a variety of items (listed below). 

Written Assignments and Presentations (3/5 of grade)

For each PBL project the following is required:

  • One presentation
  • One initial submission of the product requested in the scenario (at least 800 words)
  • One product revised in response to comments

Participation and Contribution to the Class Process (2/5 of grade)

  • Attendance and participation in class meetings based on preparation between classes, including focal reading (14 items)
  • "Treasure Hunt", to get familiar with organization of course materials and requirements in the booklet and online (1 item)
  • Annotated reference or resource (such as a person, organization, website) added at regular intervals to the evolving bibliography on the blog (8 items)
  • Reflection on your experience of the course process and your learning in the PBL format (at least 10 weekly entries, each worth 1/2 an item, adding up to maximum of 5 items.)
  • Minimum of two in-person or phone conferences on your assignments and projects—one before class 5, the other, with the other instructor before class 10 (2 items) 
  • Exercises to prepare for class workshops (4 items)
  • Peer commentary on other students' draft products (3 times, by the class after presentations)(3 items)
  • Your assignment checklist filled-in during the semester and submitted with your self-assessment on the rubric below; due at the last class (1 item)
  • Bonus item: Participate in the April session at the Cambridge Science Festival


In recognition of the contingencies of your lives, around 20% of written assignments, presentations, and participation items may be skipped without penalty. Specifically, if you complete three of the four products and 30 of the 38 participation items, you get an automatic B+ and the Grading Rubric (see below) is used to assign B+, A- or A. Only if you miss that target—we hope you don’t—are points tallied: You get 10 points for each completed product (or 5 points if you only make an initial submission), and you get 5 points for each presentation made, up to 50 points maximum. You get 1 point each participation item completed up to 35 maximum. These points are converted to letter grade:

B+ ≥80
B ≥72.5
B- ≥65
C+ ≥57.5
C ≥50
F <50

If you qualify for an automatic B+, you get 80 points. In that case, the following rubric is used to add points (likely moving the grade above a B+). The total points are converted to letter grade:

A ≥95
A- ≥90
B+ ≥80


Grading Rubric (for grades of B+ or above)

For each quality "fulfilled very well" you get 2 additional points. If you "did an OK job, but there was room for more development/attention," you get 1 point. If "to be honest, this was not fulfilled," you get 0 points.  

  1. Written submissions are paced as specified in the schedule, including timely revisions.
  2. Initial submission of each project's product are revised thoroughly, showing further inquiry and new thinking in response to comments.
  3. Work on projects is innovative and well planned with respect to generating the required product in the time available.
  4. Work on projects indicate that you can extend tools and processes from the course to your specific situation so as to "trouble...the boundaries of knowledge production in the academy and sciences."
  5. Written submissions are clear, well structured, and address the specification of the products given in the Project descriptions.
  6. Written submissions have supporting references and detail, and are professionally presented.
  7. Participation in classes is active and shows preparation, as evident in exercises to prepare for class workshops and discussion of the shared focal reading.
  8. Involvement in building the class as a learning community is active, as evident in participation in student-student activities and helpful peer comments on drafts and presentations.
  9. Reflections on the course process and your learning in the PBL format, as recorded in your private learning journal, is thoughtful.
  10. Contributions to the evolving bibliography are well annotated.