• Saving Mental Energy: Give Two Grades on Essays


(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) 

Imagine that you read Mari’s essay in which she developed her ideas exactly the way that you had hoped she would.  But her grammar was very weak and even caused some confusion.  You are torn about what grade to give her.  You know that her grammar skills are not strong enough to succeed at the next level, so you don’t want to mislead her.  But you also don’t want to discourage her since her content was so good.

What grade should you give Mari?

Single-Grade Option:   After struggling with what to give her, you decide on 78%, which is a low-passing grade.  In essence, you are telling her that if she continues to write like this, she will pass the course even though her grammar skills don’t justify it.

Two-Grade Option:  With little mental struggles, you give her two grades.  To reward her outstanding development, you give her a 95% for content.  To give her a realistic appraisal of her grammar skills, you give her a 68% for grammar.

The key to making the two-grade option effective: You do NOT average the two grades.  Students are told that they need to have average passing grades for BOTH content and grammar.  Mari can feel encouraged by her high content grade and still understand that she must improve her grammar if she wants to pass.

Attached is an essay evaluation form that shows how an instructor can give feedback to students along with two grades. Essay Evaluation Form

To save yourself from burnout, see, • Writing class: How many drafts should ESL students write? Three!

David Kehe

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