Sample Paper

Grading and making comments on the sample paper was actually harder than I was expecting it to be.  Many of my tutees complain about how long it takes their professors to grade their papers, and I completely understand their frustration.  But now I understand from a professor’s point of view how long it can take to write (hopefully) helpful comments. The sample paper had several major problems, but I did see a few interesting ideas the student could expand on. The thesis and topic sentences were vague, and there was very little quote analysis anywhere in the paper. The student also struggled with word choice and awkward phrasing, which sometimes made a sentence grammatically incorrect.  I tutor a lot of ESL students who struggle with grammar, and I think that sometimes professors focus too much on the bad grammar and fail to comment on other areas of the paper that may also need improvement.

I have seen professors address bad grammar in a few different ways. Some correct all of the student’s grammar mistakes themselves, but then do not write why what the student originally wrote was wrong. Others try to identify certain types of problems with grammar that the student repeats throughout the essay, but sometimes, especially with ESL students, there are many patterns of error that keep occurring and the student is already familiar with them.  I tutor one student below Basic Comp who severely struggles with writing in English, and his professor never comments about anything in his paper besides the grammar mistakes.  I think it would be more helpful, even if the grammar is terrible, for professors to remember to write about other things too. They could mention whether or not the student is struggling with organization of ideas, or what areas in the paper they should expand on.  Keeping this in mind when grading the sample paper, I stopped myself from pointing out the same type of mistake throughout the paper and instead tried to offer the student a few different areas where he or she could improve.

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