Sunday, March 6, 2011

Grading Advice

I have a question for my blogiverse and twitter peeps out there. I'm currently grading papers which, first of all, are over due on my end because of the down time of OnlineU. But here's my question and keep in mind that more one student did this. I made the instructions of the assignment very clear on what the topic needed to be. This is my problem - some students wrote excellent papers, but on the WRONG topic. Normally I would tell them to do it over, but because of all the technical problems they're already well into their next assignment. I shouldn't hold it against them because of the technical issues and I don't want their current projects to be poor because they're trying to redo a past one.

I don't know how lenient I should be given the circumstances. Do I drop the papers a letter grade? More? These are really good papers, would have been an A if written about the right topic. How do other people handle it? I know these particular students are hard workers and obviously spent a lot of time on their papers.

Advise and opinions are greatly appreciated!


  1. Part of completing an assignment is following its instructions. I would certainly drop the papers' grades, perhaps by a letter grade (or 10% if you are using numeric grades). Think about it like Top Chef: if you didn't follow the rules of the competition, you would either be ineligible to win (not an A) or you would be up for elimination/in the losing side (not an A). In no case could you win the challenge by not meeting some requirement of the competition.

    Don't feel like this is your fault. If you made the instructions and topic expectations very clear, then the onus was entirely on the students to follow these.

    Would you give a student an A on this assignment if they'd written a fabulous, well-researched paper on medieval history instead of on your topic (which I assume is not medieval history)? I think you wouldn't.

  2. I think that you should look at it this way: Did the student follow directions? No. End of story.

    If they were doing math, and didn't follow the directions, they'd get the wrong answer, JUST LIKE THEY DID HERE.

  3. What sucks is they give us a rubric we have to use to keep grading consistent between the different instructors. Usually a good thing. But if I followed the rubric by the letter the student would get an A. They just assume the student wrote about the right thing. Did they understand what they wrote, it asks. Yes, they did. But they didn't write about the right thing.

  4. It sucks. BF just had the same issue with his midterm. I told them exactly what Geeka and Kelly mentioned; under any other circumstances it would not be acceptable. Part of learning how to do quality work is to follow instructions. Like Kelly said, start with 10% off the original mark and go from there. Explain that though this was hard, part of learning and excelling is to follow instructions. Maybe at the end of the course you can try and help them with a small assigment if the follow instructions to a T in the next set of assigments/papers/exams. But don't sweat it. It's though, but it's part of developing the skin of a prof. Best of luck :-)

  5. Rubrics are not craved in stone. I would make the grade deduction. A good paper, sure, but not following directions is a bigger offense.

  6. Sometimes I just need confirmation. I guess it's because I'm just starting my teaching career but you all recommended what I thought I should do. I docked them a whole letter grade. And what I got was a lot of apologizing for the mistakes, no bitching. I need to trust myself! Thanks everyone.