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Myth 5:

I can't tell how good my paper is until I see the grade.

Some Students' Reasoning: Every professor has his/her own expectations for academic writing, and I'm usually so tired from an all nighter that I don't have a clue how good a paper is when I hand it in.

Some Professors' Reply: If you have worked well on the general coursework and read the assignment carefully, you should not be shocked by the grade, especially by a low one.

Some Suggestions:

  1. Don't assume that students have read the assignment carefully and understand its requirements completely. Ask students to read an assignment silently and identify the key terms, the kinds of sources, and the form(s) of writing required. Devote a few minutes, for example, to differentiating between a summary and an analysis.

  2. Distribute explicit grading criteria. For example, the Chemistry guide to lab reports explains that "15% of the grade is based upon a preliminary exercise [or] prelab . . . [35% lab performance, such as general technique . . . and accuracy of results, and 50% for the lab report, based on clarity of presentation . . . and the use of the correct tense and voice.]"

  3. Train students to engage in peer response. Students gradually can learn to offer specific praise then constructive criticism to sample papers and later to the work of actual classmates. Students develop a greater sense of quality and objectivity.

    Note that peer response should be a mandatory activity with some penalty, like -10 off the final grade if missed, and the responses to a peer must be graded, at least minimally.

MINIMUM CLASS TIME: 30-90 minutes
CORRECTING TIME: increases 1-2 hrs. for peer responses, but may decrease overall