1. Why do we work all semester on many papers and end up being evaluated on only a few?
2. Why do other 102 teachers read a random sample of portfolios at the end of the semester?
3. Why can’t our teachers decide by themselves what we should be doing in class?
4. How can there be consistency in grading?
At the end of the semester you will select—with your teacher’s help—several pieces of writing for your portfolio and an in-class essay. The papers must have been written as part of the course, and teachers must have seen earlier drafts of each portfolio piece. No new pieces on new topics submitted at the last moment will be accepted. In order to get a C or higher in the course, these papers must meet program expectations in four key areas: Reasoning and Analysis, Rhetorical Organization and Paragraphing, Task and Audience Awareness, and Grammar and Punctuation. (You must repeat the course if you do not get a C or higher.)
IMPORTANT: You are not guaranteed a C if these portfolio papers pass; your grade is based on all your work plus other factors such as missing classes or missing deadlines, lateness and so
In order for the faculty in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric to maintain a standard of excellence in its teaching and grading policies, the faculty will also select a substantial random sample of all portfolios submitted to be used for program-assessment purposes at the end of the semester. Portfolios will be returned to students no later than the week of final exams.
I. Completing the WRT 102 Portfolio
Check this end-of-semester checklist for details of what must be demonstrated in the portfolio.
• Reasoning and Analysis
Competent analysis of writer’s own ideas and source material: Writer signals engagement, questioning, or nuanced relationship with her or his thoughts and the materials being incorporated into her or his argument. The essay communicates an ability to interact with ideas, but it lacks the sophistication of a more mature writer.
• Task and Audience Awareness
Competent knowledge of the conventions of the academic essay: Writer shows some ability to use content (e.g., quotes, examples, hypotheticals), diction, and tone to engage an academic audience with a plausible argument appropriate to an academic audience. Essay’s form of presentation fits with task.
• Rhetorical Organization and Paragraphing
Competent knowledge of rhetorical organization and paragraphing: Thesis drives flow of essay, though content may on occasion wander from its focus. Paragraphs are usually clear and unified. Evidence within paragraphs usually links to the main idea, and paragraphs have adequate detail. Transitions usually operate as simple signposts to link ideas, so the writer’s ability to use them is not sophisticated.
• Grammar and Punctuation
Competent ability with sentence structure, sentence boundaries, and language usage (especially punctuating clauses and using correct verb forms). Sentences are clear and syntactically correct but may lack variety and suffer from wordiness or imprecise diction. Errors are infrequent and do not interfere with reader’s understanding or attention. Formatting of references usually fit with assigned style.
Questions About Portfolio Evaluation in WRT 102
These pieces are supposed to be representative of all your writing in the class. That is why we require that they be different kinds of writing. Your instructor has the option of not passing you if he or she thinks that the pieces in the portfolio do not represent the rest of the writing you have done in class. That is, if your other writing in the class is poor and you have not revised these with as much care as your portfolio pieces, your instructor can give you a U. And once your portfolio passes, your instructor is the one who decides on your class grade.
In the “real” world, the only sorts of writing that are done for just one person are probably letters and love notes! It is only in school that other sorts of writing are done for one reader: your instructor. We believe that reading essays by students we have not personally coached in writing and revision during the semester helps us clarify the standards we uphold in our own classes. This calibration process allows us to view our own students’ essays with fresh eyes and a clearer sense of the program expectations in the four key areas. The reading process also promotes dialogue about student writing and the best practices to improve our own teaching.
As you know, WRT 101 and WRT 102 are the only classes required of virtually every student at Stony Brook (except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent course at another school and a few freshmen who score 5 on the placement test). Because of this, the University believes that we must establish some sort of consistency in curriculum and evaluation. Asking for certain genres in the portfolio and following a grading rubric establishes consistency in curriculum and overall instruction.
All those teaching for the first time in our program must attend a graduate teaching practicum in which they discuss assignments and writing standards every week. In addition, we schedule meetings every semester for all instructors where we all read and judge the same papers and talk about why we have reached the judgments we have. Individual judgments will always vary somewhat; we really do not want instructors who all think alike. Still, our meetings give us the opportunity to share judgments and learn from one another.
Shyam Sharma, Assistant Professor of WRT, will appear on PBS NEWSHOUR 8/27/2014 (read more here)
RhetComp@StonyBrook (PWR blog)
Writing Center • 631.632.7405