Grading Tips

Grading Late Papers

As grades are students’ primary motivation for turning papers in on time, your syllabus should be clear about how students will be penalized for turning in late work. For example:

Late Paper Policy

Late drafts (rough or final) will result in a lower overall grade. I will deduct one third of a letter grade for each day a paper is late. Late rough drafts will also complicate peer reviews and, in turn, diminish the quality of the feedback you receive from your peers. If it is absolutely necessary to turn a paper in late, please see me as soon as possible to negotiate an extension.
If a paper is one day late, some instructors choose to deduct the third of a letter grade that is indicated on the syllabus, while for papers over one day late, they will only deduct half of what their syllabus indicates. This permits them to write this sort of comment on a paper turned in two days late: “Though I would normally deduct two thirds of a letter grade for a paper that is two days late, I will only deduct a third in this case because I know how much other work you had to do.” This allows instructors to balance their impulse to be kind and considerate with the need to emphasize the importance of turning written work in on time.

For Students Who Contest their Grades

It is generally bad practice to change the grades of students who contest their grades. This sets a bad precedent and undermines your authority which, sad though it may be, is closely tied to your position as the sole arbiter of students’ grades. You might tell an especially persistent student that you will take their points into account when grading the next paper. Though you shouldn’t shy away from discussing the reasons why the student received the grade they did, try to direct the conversation toward how they can address these issues in the upcoming paper.

Organizing your Syllabus

In addition to a section that describes each of the essay assignments in detail, your syllabus should contain a percentage breakdown of the students’ overall grades. For example:

  • Lens essay: 30%
  • Research proposal: 10% (graded on completion)
  • Research essay: 40%
  • Class participation (includes research presentations and Critical Conversation, Comparative Genre Analysis, and experiential reflection letters): 10%
  • Portfolio (includes Latte posts, pre-drafts, and peer reviews): 10%

Participation Grades

Because UWS is a discussion-oriented seminar (and because participating effectively in a college seminar is an important skill for first-year students to learn), you should figure class participation into students’ overall grades. It is important to make clear to students that they will not receive credit for simply showing up to class. They should understand that a high participation grade requires thoughtful contribution to the class discussion in nearly every class. Students may need to be reminded of this later in the semester.


As grades are essentially your only leverage over students who fail to attend class, it is important to be clear about how absences will affect their grades. For example:

Attendance Policy

Attending class is essential for you to get the most from this course; in-class discussions are critical for your learning. Therefore, please do not miss class unless you have an emergency. If you miss more than three classes, each additional absence will result in the lowering of your final grade for the course by a 1/3 of a grade. Please contact me in the event of an emergency that prevents you from attending class. Seven or more absences will result in a failing grade.