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English 1101 and 1102 Grades and Grading Criteria

Find the overall breakdown of your semester grade on the English 1101 syllabus or English 1102 syllabus. You should track your grades throughout the semester in Brightspace (D2L).

Grades on individual assignments
I assign letter grades with qualifiers—A-, B+, C-, etc.—on most individual assignments and accordingly-scaled numerical grades expressed as fractions on all assignments, with the upper term of the fraction indicating the number of points earned and the denominator the total possible points for the assignment. For instance, a C+ 7.8/10 on an assignment indicates a grade of C+ with 7.8 of the 10 points maximum.

Your semester grade
For the course as a whole, MGA awards only letter grades without qualifiers (pluses or minuses):

A for excellent work, B for good work, C for satisfactory work, D for marginally passing or "below average" work, and F for failing work, or unsatisfactory performance.

Exit requirements: In English 1101, you must earn a semester grade of C or better to proceed to English 1102 and to receive Area A1 credit; in English 1102 you must earn a semester grade of C or better to receive Area A credit and to proceed to 2000-level English surveys.

Following instructions is crucial. Regardless of the quality of your work in other respects, often the single most important factor in grades on individual assignments is how carefully you follow instructions. It is vitally important that you read all instructions for written assignments with carefully focused attention. Too often low grades reflect a student's not meeting assignment requirements or not doing the work specifically intended on a particular assignment. For instance, say an exam essay's instructions indicate that you are to write about four different literary works' portrayal of heroism and you skim through the instructions and write about heroism in only one work, albeit brilliantly and in depth—the essay would fail because you did not follow instructions. For all assignments, large and small, in class and out of class, your grade will be impacted tremendously by how carefully you follow instructions and meet requirements. Always read instructions with painstaking care, and let me know whenever you are unsure of what you are being asked to do on any assignment.

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My grading criteria for "smaller assignments"
By "smaller assignments" I mean all graded work other than formal papers and midterm and final exams.

In grading most smaller assignments, I evaluate your work with two primary criteria in mind: 1) the extent to which it meets and follows the assignment's intent by heeding instructions carefully and precisely, and 2) the level of effort indicated by your work.

Your grade on some smaller assignments will be a purely quantitative matter of how many errors you make and avoid. With the "Quotations Exam" in 1101, for instance, your grade will reflect how carefully you follow the very precise rules for documenting quotations and other source material correctly. If you put the effort into mastering the basics outlined on my "Quotations" page, your grade on this exam should be strong.

With other smaller assignments, reading quizzes and peer response exercises, for example, your effort alone will dictate the grade. For many reading quiz questions there will be no one "right" answer, and you will get full credit for any answer clearly indicating that you have read the material closely enough to provide a reasonable answer, whether or not yours is the specific answer I had in mind when making the quiz. Similarly, with peer response exercises, I am not so concerned with whether I agree with your suggestions or comments, but mainly with the effort you make in offering helpful criticism and advice. So long as you answer each peer response question carefully and thoroughly and offer helpfully critical comments, you should get an A for the assignment.

With most smaller assignments, careful and conscientious effort will be rewarded with good grades.

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Grading criteria for threaded online discussions
The most essential factors in grades for threaded online discussions are how carefully you follow posting instructions and the level of thoughtful, thorough engagement with the readings indicated through your contributions. In online courses, "threaded discussions" are the primary vehicle of instruction, approximating the real-time discussion in a traditional face-to-face class, so it is crucially important that you post and view the postings of others at different points throughout each unit's discussion period. I understand that flexibility in participation is one of the key benefits of an online course, but students learn relatively little when all of their participating in threaded discussions comes in only one session per unit and when they are not diligent in reading the posts of their classmates and instructor. As I explain in the "instruments of evaluation" portion of the syllabus for each online class, "just as students in traditional classrooms cannot simply share their contributions and leave the classroom without hearing and benefiting from what others say in discussion, you should not just contribute your posts to discussions without attending to what everyone else has to say. Students who post only on the last day of any unit will receive no higher grade for that unit's discussion than a B-; students who fail to read at least 75% of classmates' postings each unit will receive no higher grade than C." Note that you can always read the posts of others in the day or two following the close of actual discussion.

Grading criteria for formal essays
Here are the general standards by which I evaluate your formal writing.

Matters of course: the bedrock basics.
In order to receive a passing grade:

An essay must first and foremost address a viable topic, meaning that if you are given a specific assignment for the essay, your paper must address the assigned topic squarely, directly, and fully. In the absence of a specific assigned topic, the essay must set up and address a topic genuinely worthy of exploration at the college level. We will deal with this issue later in the semester, but here's one quick illustration: a beautifully written paper proving that Hester Prynne is treated harshly in The Scarlet Letter for her sin of adultery would receive a quick F because the point is too obvious to need elaboration: any reader of the novel would know simply from reading the book that Hester is treated harshly. Each essay should develop a thesis that enlightens your readers: you should present and develop significant argument or analysis that goes beyond simply stating the obvious.

blue bullet Secondly, every essay must meet all specified assignment requirements. For instance, if an assignment stipulates that you must incorporate a personal anecdote from your own life and you do not include one, your essay has no chance of passing however brilliant it may be in other respects. Or if you are asked to incorporate four quotations from our readings and you include only three? No chance to pass.

blue bullet An essay must be adequately developed in order to receive a passing grade. At the very least, all essays must exceed the minimum word count—in the text of the essay itself, excluding the title, header, works cited page, etc. If you are asked to write an essay of 500-750 words, 498 words will get you an automatic F. Be advised that the word minimum means absolute minimum in this class.

blue bullet To pass, an essay must have some apparent structure at the paragraph level: the introductory paragraph should establish the essay's central focus, body paragraphs should explore that focus with distinctly separate main points in separate body paragraphs, and the concluding paragraph should bring the discussion to a satisfying close.

blue bullet The writing must be intelligible standard English, without an excess of "major" errors in grammar—subject-verb agreement problems, sentence fragments, comma splices, fused sentences, pronoun agreement problems, etc. We will discuss "major errors" early in the semester.

The "A" paper: My expectations for "A" work on formal essays are high. It is not unusual early in the semester for me to award A's on fewer than 5% of the papers I grade. The percentage tends to rise as the semester progresses, but often not much beyond the 10-15% range. I believe A essays should be truly exceptional work. Beyond satisfying each of the "bedrock basics" listed above, I expect an A essay to do each of the following:

The "B" paper: Essays in the "B" range generally satisfy most of the requirements for "A" work as outlined above—for me, a "B" essay is very strong work, definitely above average. What usually distinguishes B papers from A papers is one or more of the following: The "C" paper: "C" essays usually present and develop a viable thesis in reasonably convincing fashion, with generally solid writing at the local level of grammar, mechanics, diction, and convention. A "C" paper is usually acceptable work in the main, with one or more of the following weaknesses: The "D" paper: Essays in the "D" range are only marginally acceptable. They usually have significant and troubling weaknesses in one or more of the following areas: The "F" paper: An "F" indicates clearly unacceptable work. Most often I assign "F's" on essays that fail to satisfy all of the "bedrock basics" listed above: in viability of topic or overall focus, meeting assignment requirements, adequate development, minimally effective paragraph structure, or minimally acceptable grammar and mechanics. Additionally, the following can be grounds for failure:

Grading criteria for in-class and final exam essays

I try to be understanding about examination pressure and time constraints with in-class and exam essays, but I do still expect these compositions to be effective in overall focus, structure and development. Typically, I do not expect introductions and conclusions to be so thoroughly developed in these essays as in formal papers written outside of class, and I tend to be more forgiving with most matters of grammar and mechanics. But by and large I expect your exam and in-class essays to meet the most important criteria for formal out-of-class essays outlined above, with the notable difference that I would not typically expect in-class or exam essays to include quotations, and I do not impose minimum word counts on in-class writings or exams.