A RhetNet SnapShot Reply:
THE GRADING VORTEX
I haven't put a letter grade on a paper since the early '80s. Instead I encourage students to evaluate themselves. I make clear what my standards are . . . that is, what I expect in terms of production, preparedness, and participation for varying levels of behavior, A-F and then ask the students to justify their self-assessment.
This self-assessment is discussed, face to face, with students, in the privacy of my office. We usually agree; at times, the students are too harsh on themselves. It works for me.
What I do spend a significant part of my time during a semester on is convincing students that they can become a good critique of their own and others' writing. They are often unconvinced and begin class in the mode where they expect me to be their one and only critic. I soon dispell that notion in that I require student feedback which is mailed to a public mailing list for all to see.
I am firmly convinced that this act of producing thoughtful feedback is one of the core elements in making a student in to his/her own best critique. The feedback received isn't half as important as the act of writing the critique.
One of the key items a writing teacher should develop is to phrase these critique questions in ways that cause students to think critically about the act of writing. That's where the challenge lies in my assignment and course design.