Sunday, March 20, 2005

Errors and Grading Standards

To what degree do you concentrate on grammar and mechanics in grading? Do you follow a rubric or a point system, or do you grade holistically? To you determine your own grading standards, or do you follow department guidelines? Are you confident that an A, B, or C in your class is the same quality as an A, B, or C in your colleagues' classes?

I ask these questions because I'm curious about how much range there is in academic autonomy among composition teachers in various states and schools. I'm also curious about how much consistency there is in grading standards.

My school has policies that regulate the number of assignments in all classes, not just in English classes. Comp 1 classes are supposed to have at least six graded essays. Comp 2 classes have 3 essays, a research paper, and a business writing unit that includes a resume, a letter of application, and a technical report. I've been there nine years, and I'm still trying to figure out how to fit all of that in. ;)

We also have grading guidelines for grammar. Major errors are supposed to count off 10 points each and minor errors 5 points each. Major errors are defined by the school as comma splices, subject/verb errors, sentence fragments and fused sentences.

If we really follow all of these guidelines, that leaves very little room for actually teaching them how to write. On the other hand, the students struggle with grammar, and since we do not have a writing center, they have to get instruction on grammar in the classroom.

I'm not sure there is a good answer to how to deal with all of this and really get down to teaching writing, but I would like to know how other schools handle these issues.


Scott Rogers said...

SIX graded essays? All modes, I assume? I've been trying to get people around here to teach fewer, longer essays and require more daily writing (reading responses, etc), which is where I think the magic happens.

Sharon Gerald said...

Yes, six. Yes, modes. Lecture classes are required to have at least six test grades, so this is an across the board school policy. The reasoning behind it is that without a rule like that faculty might start giving just a midterm and final and the students wouldn't have enough grades to know how they are doing. Really, I think our students do need more grades and more tangible feedback than university students. But combine the fact that we all teach six sections, and the comp 1 classes usually have at least 35 students (sometimes up to 45)...well, you can see where we are limited in our choices. Sometimes I do four essays in a row, then have the students pick two essays to revise. I still don't get them up to the length I'd like, but at least in the revisions I can require a little more development.

Jeanne, bless her heart, does portfolios, and we've all been begging her to tell us how she pulls it off.

Yes, I think the daily writing is the thing, but I don't have time to read it. :)

Rosa G. said...

Six Sections? What a way to go. All comp? God bless you. We don't have an error count, but we do have a list of number of essays and kind, though I believe that it has changed from the rhetorical mode approach to one that describes what the paper should have in it (i.e. at least two outside resources, etc. ). Of course you can't respond as often as necessary--who could?
Great post, Joanna

Sharon Gerald said...

This semester I have four comp twos and two world lits. Some people teach all comps. Most people teach either a combination of comp and lit or comp and developmental. I've heard of people at other schools in this area teaching seven or eight sections per semester. Obviously, there are a lot of things not getting enough response in that situation.