Symposium teacher Dr. Wayne institutes unique grading system

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As another school year kicks off, another Symposium author, Min Jin Lee, is set to visit KO this coming January. However, Dr. Wayne’s grading policy for this semester isn’t your traditional approach. Instead of the typical essays given letter grades, Dr. Wayne is trading in grading for more extensive feedback and a labor-based grading system. 

The system, outlined in a google doc for both Symposium sections, was reviewed, negotiated, and approved by the Symposium students themselves. Students are required to hand in four major writing pieces and other assignments; full completion of these results in an automatic B+. These writing assignments include a “Pachinko” inspired short story, an op-ed about a contemporary social problem to “Pachinko,” a personal essay inspired by “Free Food for Millionaires,” and a researched piece of literary analysis on either or both novels. 

On top of these assignments, Symposium students will teach a class in the KO community and contribute a piece of writing to a Symposium literary magazine.The labor-based aspect of grading comes into play for students who want to work towards a grade higher than a B+. These optional projects can be as creative as a student wants, but have to be proposed and approved by Dr. Wayne. If they choose to do one project that meets Dr. Wayne’s and the grading contract’s requirements, their grade becomes an A-. Two projects is an A, and three is an A+. Essentially, Symposium students have the power to dictate their own grade based on the labor they put in. 

Dr. Wayne chose to do this so she could give her students free creative reign and make her less central in the evaluation of student work. “I wanted to do something different to reflect the values that our Symposium author has in terms of being against bias of how writing is evaluated,” Dr. Wayne said. “I decided to use a system that would let students be creative and express their strengths, and remove my own subjective biases from the process.” 

Many students taking Symposium said that they find this new system to be very constructive. With the ability to choose what they want to do, this policy opens up so many new avenues and opportunities for learning. “I really like the new system because I think it is consistent with Min Jin Lee’s values, and it allows students to be rewarded for extra work and graded fairly,” senior Sloan Duvall said. “With this new labor based grading, there are so many opportunities to be creative and dig deeper into the world of Min Jin Lee.”

With more opportunities available, students have come up with endless possibilities for their extra projects. From paintings to presentations, films to a Symposium class Instagram account, these seniors have taken their creativity to the next level. 

“I created a video based off of a woman on TikTok who makes Korean food while she discusses her thoughts on Korean traditions and diaspora,” senior Isabelle Rome said. “In my video I make Korean dishes while discussing the text, almost like a podcast.” Diaspora, for those unfamiliar, is the dispersion of a group of people away from their original homeland. The Symposium class is studying diaspora, a central focus of Min Jin Lee’s novels, as a way of understanding migration, cultural differences, and identity politics.

Dr. Wayne believes that being able to teach the Symposium course allows her to put her own special spin on how the students can put their learning on display.

“Since Symposium is such a unique class and people have to apply to be in it, I feel like it gave me the opportunity to try something really different,” Dr. Wayne said. “For our regular English classes, I have to be in alignment with what other teachers are doing, so I couldn’t do something so outside of the box, but Symposium gives me the chance to do that.”