10-8 Response: Comments and Grades

This week’s readings were all very useful in providing an uncomplicated but comprehensive guide for commenting on and grading papers, but two points in particular stood out to me: Kerry Walk’s assertion that “Comments illustrate to students that their papers are written to be read” (31) and Glenn and Goldthwaite’s suggestions for course-based grading criteria in The St.Martin’s Guide (138-139). Walk’s comment, although simple and perhaps even self-evident, really resonated with me— from class discussions and reading responses, I have discovered that most of my students have had a less than favorable experience with past writing and English classes. Many have complained that their past assignments felt like meaningless busy work, or that their instructor was simply fishing for the “correct” answer and not interested in what the student actually had to say. Others have said that they felt a disconnect between their writing assignments and the rest of their academic and personal world. Walk’s statement, therefore, seemed like the answer to this problem: by providing genuine feedback on their papers, students will realize that their assignments are not merely busy work and that they are not submitting their final papers into an empty void—that someone is actually listening to what the student has to say.

The course-based grading criteria suggested in chapter 5 of The St.Martin’s Guide was likewise very helpful and illuminating for me. For the first formal assignment, I presented my students with a grading criteria that I developed on my own. I tried to be as transparent as possible with them, and have repeatedly told them that if they have any questions or issues with my grading criteria, they can discuss it with me. However, after this week’s reading, I’m now inclined to try out a class-based criteria for our upcoming papers. Not only would this force the students to really consider what exactly constitutes “good” writing, but it will, as Glenn and Goldthwaite say, “make them participants in the process rather than mere pawns of other powers” (139). As we’ve discussed in past classes, we have to strike a balance between instructor-centered and student-centered classes, and allowing students to determine the grading criteria of their assignments seems like an ideal way to achieve that balance. I would be interested this week to hear from any others who have used a course-based grading criteria, in order to learn what does and does not work