It’s term paper time. Actually, it was time last week for term paper drafts in two of my classes. Unfortunately, six students had draft grades below 50 (three below 40). The thing is: Their papers were actually quite good with respect to content. The students had clearly conducted their research and presented interesting information and analyses. But the papers had 50 or more errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, citations, and reference formatting.
The drafts were supposed to be proofread and in decent shape. The students knew that they can gain back only half the subtracted points through revisions. I also encouraged students to show me their drafts before submitting them to catch problems early on. None of the six students did. They also didn’t go to the Writing Center, although I reminded them several times of its existence.
The classes are capstone courses in communication studies, where the focus usually is on oral communication. The six students’ presentations were quite good, and their course grade, as a result, may be in the C or even B range (despite the paper).
With the courses being capstone courses, most students are seniors; for some, this is their last semester. I am trying to determine how students have been able to get to the end of their college careers, without being able to write adequately.
There is a model of writing learning goals that requires specific evaluation standards (e.g., “students will be able to . . . with 80% accuracy”). If not all students can reach this goal, then the instructor failed (due to inadequate teaching skills or standards that were too high).
Do students get to their senior year without adequate writing skills because instructors tend to focus on content, not form?
Should we simply disregard the few students who perform very poorly?
Should we perhaps make it a prerequisite that inadequate writers visit the Writing Center once per week (i.e., without a record of WC attendance, the students won’t pass the course)?