Assignment 6 – Sample Paper Grading
While commenting on and grading the sample paper, I tried to keep my comments diverse and relevant – i.e., pertinent to the issues that I found in the paper, while not being overwhelming or focusing too much on minute details. While it would definitely be easier to just skim through the paper and edit every little grammar mistake or mechanical error, this kind of error is not the main focus of improving writing – bigger issues like organization, thesis, quote analysis, etc. need to be addressed first and foremost. I did make a point to identify any major grammatical problems that I noticed throughout the paper, as a large pattern of error indicates that the student may not understand the rule involved, rather than a less serious typo or inadvertent mistake. However, I also emphasized bigger-picture issues, like the thesis, relating topic sentences back to the argument, sufficient analysis and explanation of quotes, and so forth.
In this way, I made sure to focus on all parts of the writing process – content, organization, and style – to provide a well-rounded but accurate critique of the paper. In doing this, I pointed out patterns of error and offered suggestions for revision/improvement, but I also made sure to recognize the good parts of the paper and build off of those, highlighting why something was done well or how it added to the paper. It is extremely discouraging to receive a graded paper that has nothing but negative feedback – even if the feedback is constructive, or even if the paper was completely catastrophic, it is important to note positive moments or moments of promise so that the student has an idea of what is good and to keep them encouraged about their writing. Even if a paper is riddled with errors or needs an entire reworking, there is always something positive to be found in it, even if it’s just a good choice of quote or use of a word.
So for example, when I read through the sample paper, I found that the thesis adequately addressed one part of the prompt – but not the part about characterizing McCandless. Instead of offering a wholly negative or positive comment, I made an effort to include all my thoughts on the thesis and how it could be improved. In order to do this thoroughly, I first praised the fact that the student had developed her stance on the self and the individual in society. Then, I noted that the characterization of McCandless and his journey wasn’t addressed in the thesis statement, and I explained why the ideas put forth in the first few sentences might work better when integrated into the thesis, since these sentences addressed the part of the argument that her thesis was missing. A careful, thorough explanation of the issues that exist and recognizing that writing is not black-and-white / good-or-bad better enables a student to understand how they can improve in his or her next writing task.