Up Next in ENGL 250

CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses

For the research paper, Lecturer Sam Piccone recommends instructors use a baseline self-grading system with their students. 

A week before the final drafts for most of the major assignments are due, Sam will ask students to submit as complete of a first draft as they can manage, along with a copy of the assignment rubric that they fill out themselves. Then, he meets with each student for a grading conference, wherein they review their work together, discuss strengths and areas of opportunity, and adjust the grade they gave themselves until they reach a consensus. “This grade becomes their baseline grade, which essentially guarantees that their grade on the final draft won’t go any lower than whatever we’ve agreed upon,” he explains. 

Then, students have the remainder of the week to make revisions to bring that score up. Depending on the quality and quantity of those revisions, Sam will add points to their baseline grade on their final submission.  

“Most students find it a little odd at first and usually mention how surprisingly difficult it is to grade something fairly (to which I always enjoy responding, “welcome to my world”), but it doesn’t take long for them to get used to it and start addressing questions and concerns specific to their own writing styles and approaches.”  

Sam says that although it can be labor intensive, he likes grading this way for several reasons. “I think giving students a grade they’re comfortable with that they know they can fall back on makes it easier for them to take some interesting risks regarding revision and think about their work a little longer/with more intention than they might typically. I also love how it kind of doesn’t matter if the revisions work (let’s be honest, first revisions mess things up as much as they correct things). If things fall apart a bit, the students get to discover what doesn’t work, which is super valuable. If things do work, they get a little taste of that magical moment all writers chase after: what used to be a blank page now says something that works and sounds authentically like you. Lastly, these sessions make it possible to provide instruction that is specific to each student’s needs and, more importantly, ensure that those needs are heard. The time and attention it takes to do this does not go unnoticed, and in the end, their work usually reveals a person who feels a little better and a little more confident about writing than they did before.”   

Instructors could use this approach with any ENGL 150 or 250 assignment, but it may be especially helpful for assignments with many moving pieces or assignments students might need help with or be apprehensive about (such as the research project).