Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grading criteria

Coming to terms with grading

To my students:

It is difficult to explain how much you mean to me. Without you, my work would be meaningless. You never fail to amaze me with your ability to accomplish great things. I see so many of you working so hard, struggling with balancing lives that incorporate so much more than your studies. I know that you have dreams and goals and are working hard to accomplish those goals.

And then I have to assign a number and a letter to your work. I have to look at it and decide whether it is worthy. I have to sit in judgement and pontificate as to the merits of the work you have done. While I am sometimes surprised at the work you have done, I am also often surprised as to the reaction to my judgement. Sometimes I see delight in a grade higher than expected. Other times, I see disappointment in your faces. I really believe that neither of these is necessary. You should know the criteria according to which I judge your work.



This work is below the level that any college student should ever submit to the instructor. The work may have been received after a due date. Significant aspects of the assignment are probably missing. Numerous, serious errors appear throughout the assignment. The work shows a lack of understanding of the material or worse, a disregard for instruction. Any of these criteria constitute adequate grounds for failing on an assignment.



The work may have excellent potential, but fails to meet the level of work expected at the college level. Some portion of the assignment may not have been accomplished. The work may appear not to have been edited for spelling or grammar, may not follow an approved citation format or in some other ways falls short of basic standards that should be expected of all college level work.



The work is acceptable, college level work. The assignment might still contain insignificant stylistic errors, but has clearly been edited and proofread and redone to correct the majority of them. Everything is done precisely as it is required in the assignment. If the assignment requires four sources, there are four sources. If the assignment requires a 5-7 minute speech, the student gives a speech between 5 and 7 minutes. If the assignment requires the student to state an opinion, the student states an opinion. The list could go on indefinitely, but the student is doing precisely what the assignment says and is performing at a college level.



The assignment not only accomplishes all requirements precisely as stated, but some aspect of the assignment has exceeded the quality expected of a college student. If there are any errors in style at all, they are rare and incidental. Often there is a level of professionalism and polish which moves beyond what the assignment could require. Sometimes, the execution of the assignment shows special insight into the nuances of instruction. Other times, the student has found a way to incorporate their own personality in new and creative ways.



The assignment vastly exceeds the quality of work expected of a college student. All requirements of the assignment are met and most are met with an extraordinary level of professionalism and/or creativity. Additionally, the student may have worked within the confines of the assignment to do something bold and innovative.

I hope that reading this chart can help you. I am relatively certain that most of my instructors and professors in college held similar criteria. In fact, a few of them shared their criteria with us early in the semester. I remember being thankful for their clarity. I think you should be comfortable knowing that if you do what the assignment says, you are always going to pass. I also think you should know that if you really do work that exceeds the requirements of the assignment, that you will be rewarded with a grade which is better than passing.

** edit 8:40 7/20/11 because I saw a spelling mistake.

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