So I'm grading the papers from X class, a very theory-heavy course intended for advanced undergrads. Only 8 remain on the roster (this class is not for the faint of heart), and so I'm sitting here with their papers (when I should be doing work for my admin gig) and giving them lots of feedback.
Now, the paper assignment was a toughie and one that really pushed these students beyond what they normally must do in writing papers at this university. They were expected to write a 10-15 page paper in which they 1) made an argument about a primary (literary, film) source and 2) advance that argument through the integration of theory and criticism that 3) they synthesized with their own ideas about the primary text.
In other words, I set up an assignment that tried to force them to do a version of what they see critical and theoretical sources doing in their reading.
But so now I'm looking at the papers, and.... hmmm.... I'm not sure how I feel about them. On the one hand, I think it's fair to say that these are the most interesting papers as a group that I've read as a teacher. That said, they are also.... messy. The execution is off, whether because of how they're integrating sources or how they're organizing their ideas, or in some cases it's a matter of the writing feeling forced and tortured. And often its a combination of these things.
Now, as I'm going through, it's fair to say that every one of these papers would probably be head and shoulders above what most instructors at my university, in my department, see from their students. It's clear that they are really pushing themselves hard to stretch themselves intellectually and to attempt to think about things that are much more complicated than they typically think about in their writing. And I want to reward that. But on the other hand, I think it's important to take the messiness into account. Yes, this was the first experience with this sort of writing for them all, and I don't want to be a meanie, but at the same time, I want to give them real feedback. It's just BAD WRITING if every single sentence in a paragraph is passive, or if you use quotations to speak for you, or if you don't actually explain why you use the theory that you use. And so I feel like I'm in a weird position with all of this. So far I've just been commenting without thinking about how I'm going to grade the papers themselves. As I write this post, I'm thinking it could be really beneficial to assign grades for the different parts of the assignment. Yes. This is what I shall do. Because the paper is worth 30% of the grade, so I can divide the grade into 3, with 1/3 of the grade being for the proposal and following directions, 1/3 being for the technical/formal stuff with the writing, 1/3 being for the ideas and analysis. Yeah, I think that's the best approach. And that means that I can continue with the commenting as divorced from the grading, and just really engage with what they're writing, and then evaluate each later with the rubric that I'll design to arrive at the grade.
I so love writing here when it helps me figure stuff out. Now I think, however, that I should take a break for lunch.
5 years ago