By design, the Special Project component of the module has a constrained significance when it comes to grade differentiation. This constraint is not fully captured by the fact that the Project is worth 12%, as opposed to 36% for the Quizzes and 40% for the Final Exams. While 12% is the equivalent of three quizzes, there are additional mechanisms to reduce the typical impact on overall grades.

First, as you all recall, the first 3% is purely for diligence (registering a group, clearing the project idea with the tutor, submitting), and everyone received those this semester. Second, the spread of the remaining 9% is compressed by not using the whole range. If you answered a quiz question wrongly, you will get 0 mark. (The mechanism to help ease students into doing the quizzes is the very different one of taking only your best 9 of 10 quizzes.) But if you did submit a project that shows any effort at all, you will get a good bit of that remaining 9%.

Without revealing all of the details, what it all means is that except for the very, very few, and very, very exceptional cases, all of the differentiation takes place within the final few percentage points. I won’t say how few, but it’s very few. In other words, each of your final grade is essentially settled by the other components. For the vast majority of you, the project didn’t make any appreciable difference–and all that is by design.

So who is not in this vast majority? That would be students whose projects broke into the Finalist Round (not just Semi-Finalist) or is one of the Top 3. If you are one of those, your Project marks can make a bigger difference to your final grade. This is again, by design–unless a project survives multiple rounds of evaluation by different and many people, I don’t want its scores to make too much of a difference to the overall grade. But if it did so survive, then I really should give the students involved something more. But even in this group, whether the Project Score made a material difference to a students’ overall grade depends on how his or her other components work out. And my analysis reveals that for the majority of this minority group, receiving the median score (instead of the higher score) would not have changed their final grade. The opposite is also true—if a project shows a serious lack of effort, or if there is clear evidence that a student didn’t put in a fair share of work. I won’t–and didn’t–hesitate to mark such cases down. But such cases are very, very rare.

Don’t misunderstand me–the Special Project component is far from perfect. One of the obvious short falls concerns the lack of a more granular scoring rubric, and related to that, a more standardized feedback structure. I expect to roll something out in time for when I am next scheduled to teach the module (AY2019-2020, Semester 1), if I still have the component by then. On this front, if you have ideas about what form this can take, please feel free to let me know.