Thursday, March 05, 2015

Grading Standards: An Old Handout

Stumbled on this in an old syllabus, and thought I'd post it here, where I'll be able to find it easily, in case I want either to use it again or to have my Education students critique it!

ENG 286:  Popular Romance Fiction
Notes on My Grading of Student Papers

1. Everyone starts with a B.  That is, my working assumption is that your paper is “good,” which in this class is a B.  (In some classes you’ve taken, it may have been an A; in others, it may have been a C.)  In terms of points, everything you write starts with a “2.”

2. It takes something special to raise that grade, either in the quality of your ideas or in the elegance of your prose.  An insight that surprises and impresses me, a deft turn of phrase, will count in your favor.  Enough of these and your essay will go from a B to a B+, a 2 to a 3, or higher.

3. In this class, an “A” paper is exceptional work.  I love to read A papers, I love to give A grades on papers, but I don’t give them lightly.

4. If you have trouble writing an A paper, can you still raise your grade?  Yes, by speaking up in class and by doing well on the final “first thoughts / afterthoughts / final reflections” project.  I make no guarantees, but class participation and a strong final exam will help you do well, and I grade both of them differently than I do your papers.

5. What lowers your grade from a B to a B-, a C+, or a C?  Sometimes it’s a matter of your arguments and ideas.  Underdeveloped ideas, unclear arguments, points not fleshed out or fully considered:  all of these will bring down your grade.  So will a paper that simply repeats material from class, without showing that you can use those terms or course ideas to generate arguments or insights of your own.  Other problems may occur, and I’ll try to point them out to you in my comments on the paper itself.  In the shorter response paragraphs, I don’t expect every idea to be fully developed, but I do expect your ideas to be clear and interesting, not simply echoes of my lecture.

6. What else lowers your grade?  Poor writing.  You are all college students, and should be doing college level writing.  Sentences and paragraphs that are hard for me to follow, mistakes in grammar and syntax, prose that depends on clich├ęs or uses slang in an inappropriate context, awkward or missing transitions:  none of these should appear in your essay, and when they do, they’ll weigh it down.

7. The more your writing distracts me from your argument, the lower your final grade will be.  It makes me sad to see strong ideas decked out in clumsy prose.  Tuck in the shirt, polish the shoes, wipe the nose, check the posture.  Impress me.