Assignment and Evaluation Policies

Assignment Policies

The following policies (revised Fall 2008) are designed to ensure a level of consistency across sections of the professional writing courses. They provide specific ways of implementing the course goals while allowing teachers some flexibility and discretion.

  1. Professional writing courses should focus primarily on the kinds of writing students are likely to do after they graduate. To that end, at least 70% of a student’s grade should be based on writing in professional genres such as proposals, reports, and instructions (ENG 331 and ENG 332) and literature reviews, research reports, and funding proposals (ENG 333). These graded assignments should encourage students to simulate realistic professional situations and post-graduate environments and audiences. The rest of the grade may be determined by attendance, participation, quizzes, exercises, forums, and rhetorical analysis.
  2. Students will be asked to write at least five separate major projects that have distinct instructional objectives. These major writing assignments need not be lengthy in page count, but they should address significant writing situations often encountered by professionals. Examples: resumes and job letters, proposals, instructions, status reports, feasibility reports, business plans, recommendation reports, research articles, and presentations (or scripted presentations for online sections).
  3. Each student will produce the equivalent of at least 20 single-spaced pages in the major writing projects.
  4. Students should use current technologies in the production of their assignments.
  5. Writing projects will simulate communication tasks from the work place and professional life.
  6. At least once during the semester, students will engage in peer review of their writing. Students should be given the opportunity to revise at least one of the major writing projects. Instructors may either require or recommend the submission of drafts for review. In either case, students should be encouraged to make substantive revisions and not just told to fix surface errors.
  7. Writing projects will include at least one but not more than two business or professional letters.
  8. At least one project will require the collaborative production of a single document. Altogether, the collaborative work may not count for more than 30% of a student’s grade.
  9. At least once during the semester, students will be asked to submit a one-page reflection about their writing processes, the collaborative experience, and their design decisions. These reflections need not be graded.
  10. Written assignments will be evaluated not only for verbal content, but also for an awareness of the principles of visual design. Assignment descriptions should explicitly include criteria for document design and visual display of information.
  11. Students in classroom sections will give at least one but not more than three oral presentations based on their writing in the course. Students in online classes will do at least one assignment that requires them to demonstrate oral presentation skills. Examples: narrated PowerPoint slides, video presentation, podcast, etc.
  12. At the beginning of the semester, students will be able to access complete information online about the assignments and schedule for the course including details about the policies, grading, and the nature and the scope of each assignment.


Guidelines for Designing Writing Assignments

Part of what we have to teach in these courses is how professional writing differs from academic or student writing because of the differing rhetorical situations. Another part is how students can analyze and adapt to new and unfamiliar situations. Consequently, a sound progression of assignments should first explicitly support students in understanding situations and later require them to construct and/or analyze situations on their own. For details on the design and sequence of assignments, as well as example sequences, see our Design and Sequence policy page.


Guidelines for Evaluating and Responding to Student Writing

For final grades, the plus/minus grading policy is in effect for all ENG 331, 332, and 333 sections. This applies to students who have enrolled after 1994 and to all transfer students.

Assigning grades to student writing is a major responsibility of a teacher in a writing course, but there are many aspects and stages of this complex process. The Professional Writing Committee believes that grades should not be assigned without attention to the processes of evaluation and response.

Evaluation requires criteria-standards, features, or goals to which you compare student performance. Evaluation criteria should be made clear and explicit to students before they are subject to your evaluation. And criteria should usually change from assignment to assignment, reflecting the instructional agenda for each assignment. Over the course of a semester, criteria can cumulate from assignment to assignment, or they may simply shift as you address different principles in your instruction. Some criteria may be basic standards that you expect students to have mastered already.

Responding to student writing is the way we inform students about the connections between their writing, our criteria, and the grade. It should be seen as a communicative act that, like all communication, conveys not only information but also implications about motives and human relationships. Thus, responses should usually include both constructive criticism and positive feedback.

Response can be conducted in several media: marginal notations on the student work, conversation in student conferences, tape-recorded comments, separately typed or word-processed or e-mailed comments, etc. Notations on the student’s work are the most common, and these usually take two forms: local comments and global comments. Local comments can effectively address how well a student meets specific criteria for a particular assignment or basic criteria for correct and effective syntax, coherence, and organization. But local commentary with no global comment about how well a student met the goals of an assignment as a whole usually doesn’t help a student understand why you gave the grade you did. Global comments can also help a student keep in mind the relative importance of local matters and of your evaluation criteria.

Evaluation of and response to student writing can include conducting peer reviews, commenting on rough drafts, and grading a finished product.