Grading Guide

Grading Guide by Paul J. Croce, American Studies, Stetson University

{do not copy, use, or quote without written permission of the author}

What do grades mean?

Here is a way to understand my approach to grading. It is based on a metaphor about vision and clarity, and it is the most effective and evocative way I have discovered to explain my thinking about the process of evaluating student writing. Imagine being in a helicopter looking over a town; from there, you can see the town clearly and understand the relationships of parts to the whole very well (that's roughly an A). From the top of a building, you can still see a lot of the town, but not as clearly and without as good a grasp of the relations (that's B territory). As you go down the building, your perspective and clarity are more limited (and the grades go down from there too).

How do I evaluate student writing? 

To help you get to your highest possible height before you even turn in any writing, see the Guide to Learning and Writing and the Writing Guide. To help you improve your writing after you have already turned in your essays, I will read your words and evaluate them, during the semester, within your text itself and with some general observations at the end. I can explain my thinking in this process with a metaphor as well. I serve as a filter on your prose: if it flows through clearly and smoothly, I will check it off or offer some exclamation of enthusiasm; if not, I will comment or point out the problem. I try to catch issues to bring them to your attention. I aim to be constructive: to offer assessments for improvement so that you can do your best, in my courses, in other courses, and in later work.

The importance of writing skills

 Becoming the best writer you can be is deceptively difficult but central to undergraduate education and at the root of being an educated person and empowered citizen in a democracy. Most students have heard about thesis statements and organization so many times that doing this work can seem elementary. Writing well is about more than mechanics (although it certainly needs those rules to build on); writing well emerges from clear thinking and will, in turn, help clarify your thinking and grow from clear thinking as well. The reasons behind the particular rules of writing are that these are ways of conveying your thoughts effectively to the reader. This may sound abstract, but it is really very practical. When college educators speak of preparing students with skills that they can apply to a variety of graduate school and work settings, writing is job 1. Thinking clearly and writing well are ground-floor skills that you can take anywhere and that will take you anywhere. And this is the ultimate goal of class time, your writing, and my grading: to help you do good work now and in the future.

Making References

The purpose of a reference is to allow other people to look at-or look up-your sources clearly. There are many different formats to use; the most important thing is to be clear and consistent. The Brief Handbook, 4th edition, edited by Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell (Wadsworth, 2004), provides a good guide for both references within the text and in a works-cited list (pp. 179-205); and there are other good methods and standards. Here are a few basics (examples of a book, article, and web page):

Pollack, Kenneth. The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq. New York: Random House, 2002.

Laine Bergeson, "The New Politics of Fashion: Clothes as if People Mattered." Utne Reader November-December 2003: 18-19.

"Startling Discoveries Support Creation." 1987. January 11, 2005


When making references in the text, you can use endnotes or a brief reference in parentheses; and if the reference is to one of our course readings, you can use the last name and page number in parentheses: (McNeill, pp. 104-05).