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Grading and Awarding Academic Credit

Grading and Evaluations of Student Learning by Faculty at WISR

Student work at WISR is graded Credit/No Credit.
Evaluations of student work are made by each person’s primary faculty advisers through: frequent individual, faculty-student consultations, and the faculty member’s review of the student’s written papers and student submission of the detailed end-of-course self-assessment . A strong effort is made to engage each student in habitually evaluating her or his own efforts. Open, candid discussions of a student’s strengths, progress, and areas needing attention are part of many faculty-student consultations. At the same time, students are encouraged to do repeated revisions and rewrites of their papers and self-assessments, until they have been brought to a level of quality acceptable to both the student and the teacher. WISR faculty members try to separate the process of evaluating students’ work from the penalties and insults to students’ pride that are considered necessary parts of traditional, summary grading systems.

WISR relies not on graded, written, question-answer examinations, but on students’ abilities to write clearly about subjects that they develop, and to respond articulately to questions about what and how they have learned. Qualitative written and verbal evaluations are used instead of single-letter or number grades, and faculty members making assessments are expected to know how any individual student’s work-product is related to: course and degree program learning objectives, WISR’s meta-competencies, and the student’s previous efforts and professional and personal educational objectives. Over time, each student’s learning portfolio develops a very substantial body of evidence about the student’s learning and progress, including for each course: the WISR faculty-developed course syllabus, the student’s paper for the course, the student’s self-assessment, and the faculty assessment of the student’s learning.

At the end of each course, the faculty member articulates on the form, FACULTY EVALUATION OF STUDENT LEARNING AND CREDIT EARNED [to get the form in an older Word file format .doc--click here], the evidence and reasons used in making the determination that the student has met the requirements of the course earned the minimum number of credit units required for that course. In rare instances, faculty may award students more credit when their learning and work in the course are quantitatively and qualitatively much more than required. In these cases, faculty must document and explain their reasons for awarding extra credit. Such examples might include when the student does: more reading, more reflection, more rewriting of draft, more community or practical involvement, more interviews or other kinds of data gathering, and/or labor intensive use of multimedia, in addition to their writing.

With courses that are offered for variable credit (mostly only independent study courses and internship/practica), the faculty member awards credit based on the following: 1) WISR faculty only award credit if the student’s work indicates learning and competency accomplishments comparable to what students would typically receive for that number of semester units (typically 5 semester units, at WISR) in an accredited program performing at a grade of “B” or higher for graduate study and a “C” or higher for undergraduate study.  As a further frame of reference, for example, a student earning 5 semester units of EdD program credit, must demonstrate that they have completed the appropriate proportion of that degree program in which they are enrolled. For example, with five units in the EdD program, it would be 1/12 (5/60ths) of WISR’s EdD program.

Besides building on each student’s own intellectual and professional interests, each course must result in the student’s meeting the course’s learning objectives, in progressing toward the learning objectives for the degree program in which they are enrolled. This includes becoming proficient and demonstrating competence in a range of theories and practices within their major field, and in making progress in the meta-competencies embraced by WISR’s approach to learning.

Faculty Feedback on Drafts of Student Papers and Theses

Faculty make every effort to give students rapid feedback on drafts of papers and theses. Typically, faculty give students feedback on papers that are 20 pages or less, within 7 to 10 days. Faculty may need as much as three to four weeks to read and give feedback on longer papers, and especially on drafts of theses and dissertations. Faculty are available to set up hour-long conferences with students, either face-to-face, or by phone once every week or two, as needed by students. Generally, it is best to set up appointments a week to 10 days in advance, so students can coordinate their own schedules of availability with the openings in the faculty member’s schedule. Faculty comment on the substance and content of the student’s paper, on the clarity and organization of the paper, and on grammar, spelling and mechanics. Faculty encourage students to write in their own voice, and they encourage the use of concrete examples and illustrations of general points and concepts. Critical analysis and an awareness of “bigger picture” issues and ideas are also encouraged. Students are not expected to address every single faculty criticism and suggestion in re-writing their draft, but rather to consider thoughtfully and carefully the faculty’s suggestions, and then to make sufficient revisions to show a substantial and worthwhile improvement in the paper.

More on Awarding Credit at WISR

Credit is assigned based on the extent to which a student demonstrates a substantial level of learning and accomplishment, in two broad realms—1) The quantity and quality of the student’s engagement in learning at WISR, and 2) the learning outcomes and competencies demonstrated by the student, based on faculty assessment of student learning–through mentoring discussions, small group seminars, papers and projects completed, and self-assessments written by the student pertaining to the evidence of their learning process and outcomes.  

Learning outcomes used in the granting of credit are specific to each course, and also to the learning objectives of the student’s chosen degree program, as well as expected progress in WISR’s core meta-competencies.

WISR’s expectations for the quantity and quality of student engagement in learning at WISR approximate that of the traditional “Carnegie unit” which grants one semester unit for each 45 hours of participation in learning.  It deviates slightly from the Carnegie unit in that WISR provides approximately 6 hours instead of 15 hours of classroom instruction for each unit earned.  Instead of having large classes and lectures which are less effective than more personalized, learning-centered instructional methods, students at WISR  are typically engaged in at least two hours of personalized mentoring each month, along with four hours (or more, if the student wishes) of small seminar participation–usually a half dozen or so students meeting face to face and/or by phone or video conference with one or two WISR faculty.

In addition to this substantial, high quality engagement in learning at WISR—similar to the well-known Oxford model of education—WISR faculty only award graduate credit if the student’s work indicates learning and competency accomplishments comparable to what students would typically receive for that number of semester units (typically 5 semester units, at WISR) in an accredited program performing at a grade of “B” or higher. For undergraduate credit, the standard is performing at a grade of “C” or higher. 

In assessing student work, and granting credit, WISR faculty use the above stated degree program learning outcomes, as well as the stated learning outcomes for each particular course, to evaluate student progress as demonstrated by evidence from mentoring discussions, small group seminars, papers and projects completed, and self-assessments written by the student pertaining to the evidence of their learning process and outcomes.

Read More . . .

The evidence used in awarding credit may be of several kinds:

Academic papers, professional work and community work, multimedia products (including audios, videos, photos and web pages), creative/artistic works, faculty and professional observations of student learning,  participation in WISR projects and seminars, and written, reflective analyses of prior experiences.  However, WISR does not grant credit for prior experiential learning alone, only for current learning that may involve current writing and analysis that draws on prior experiences.  Read More . . .

Transfer of Credit to WISR from Other Institutions

Maximum transfer credit accepted.

No more than 90 semester units may be transferred from other institutions toward WISR’s 124 semester units required for the BA. No more than 12 semester units of graduate study may be transferred toward WISR’s MS in Psychology, and no more than 6 semester units may be transferred toward the other MS degrees at WISR. No more than 15 units of doctoral-level credit may be transferred toward Doctoral studies at WISR.  Read more . . .

Review of Student Progress, Attendance, Probation, Dismissals, and Appeals

Since WISR faculty are committed to helping all students succeed, and because of the thoroughness of our admissions counseling process, no student at WISR has ever been dismissed. However, a faculty adviser can recommend review of a student’s persistent lack of academic progress, or persistent failure to participate in mentoring sessions with an academic advisor, to a WISR faculty academic progress review committee.  This committee, in turn may 1) put the student on academic probation with certain conditions to be met to avoid dismissal, or 2) dismiss the student. All actions taken by faculty review committees, as well as by faculty advisors, and Graduation Review Boards are subject to appeal by the student to the WISR Board of Trustees. Such appeals may request reevaluation of credits awarded, graduation decisions, dismissals, or any other decision bearing on the student’s learning and academic progress. Decisions of the Board of Trustees, made after reviewing the relevant evidence, are final.

Faculty review of student progress

 Review committees for each degree program, comprised of several WISR faculty members, will review each student’s progress semi-annually.  The purpose of these reviews is to help students make timely progress toward their degree and their personal and professional career goals.  In conducting these reviews, faculty will be mindful that during the first year or so of study, students at WISR do not typically complete courses at the same rate as they do after that.   When faculty have concerns about a student’s progress, they will negotiate with that student a progress plan for the next six months.  The purpose of the plan will be to enable the student to make better progress, and to assess whether or not it is realistic for the student to succeed in completing the program in a timely fashion.  If, after the end of the six-month progress plan, WISR faculty do not believe that it is realistic that the student can complete the program within reasonable time frame (specifically, 6 to 7 years for the doctoral program and for the MFT/LPCC programs, 4 to 5 years for the other MS programs, and depending on previous undergraduate work completed, 6 to 7 years or less for the BS  program), then the faculty committee reviewing student progress will recommend that the student be disenrolled.  The student may appeal this decision to WISR’s Board of Trustees. If the student is disenrolled, they will be given an opportunity, after a period of at least six months, to re-apply for admission, if they can make the case that their circumstances and/or ability to complete the program have improved.  If re-admitted, they will be given one six-month period to demonstrate good progress, and they must continue to demonstrate good progress in each subsequent six-month period.

Student Rights: Grievance Procedures

A student may lodge a complaint (grievance) by communicating verbally or in writing to any instructor or administrator. Any such person contacted shall attempt to resolve the student’s complaint immediately. Oral and written complaints will be accepted by the Institute in any form. When submitted in writing, a simple, specific statement about the issue to be resolved should be sufficient.

If a student complains verbally and the complaint is not resolved within a reasonable time, and the student again complains about the same matter, the President of the Institute shall advise the student that the complaint must be submitted in writing. If a student complains in writing, the President of the Institute shall, within ten days of receiving the complaint, provide the student with a written response, including a summary of the Institute’s investigation and disposition of it. However, if the President is the subject of the complaint, the Chair of the Board, or a core faculty member designated by the Chair of the Board, will lead an investigation and provide the student with a written response as noted above. If the resolution requested by the student is rejected, the reasons for the rejection shall be explained.

Grievances not resolved by agreement between the student and the President of the Institute, or by the Chair of the Board or designated faculty member, may be submitted to the WISR Board of Trustees for a final decision by the Institute.

Any questions or problems concerning this institution that have not been satisfactorily answered or resolved by the Institute should be directed to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, by calling (888) 370-7589 [toll-free] or by completing a complaint form at www.bppe.ca.gov