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Political Science Advanced GTA Training. Sue Doe Assistant Professor, English gtPathways Coordinator [email protected] Grading For What Matters—Purposes of Assignments.

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political science advanced gta training

Political Science Advanced GTA Training

Sue Doe

Assistant Professor, English

gtPathways Coordinator

[email protected]

grading for what matters purposes of assignments
Grading For What Matters—Purposes of Assignments

What is the TASK being required by the assignment—to inform, to explore, to convince, to describe, to compare, to summarize, to persuade? Find the VERB or VERBS and you’ll know the task.

Is this

  • a thesis-provided paper for which students must defend of refute?
  • a problem-solution paper in which students are given a problem or question that demands a thesis and support? Is
  • a data-provided paper for which students are expected to analyze and explain?
  • a genre-provided paper, in which students are expected to follow an organizational structure or format in an accepted form, such as a memo, case study, lab report, or executive summary?
  • write-to-learn or write-to-engage writing for which students are expected to explore and/or develop their thinking rather than to produce a polished paper?
  • an in-class essay, reflecting comprehension of course material?
holistic scoring

Holistic Scoring

The Assignment: POLS 101 American Government and Politics

With Thanks to Professor Sandra Davis and Her Students Who Generously Shared Their Work With Us

the assignment pols 101 american government and politics
The Assignment POLS 101 American Government and Politics

Your assignment is to write an essay supporting or opposing the use of the Electoral College as a means of electing the president. Use only the materials listed here and posted on RamCT: AMODD, ELAT, and LWV.

Essay Components:

  • Introduction and Background—introduce the issue, explain how the E.C. works to elect the president, discuss a variety of historic challenges to the E.C. and whether you think the process worked well or poorly in 2000.
  • State whether the E.C. should be abolished or kept and provide 3-4 reasons why.
  • Support each reason with at least one paragraph of evidence backing your view. Use sources and distinguish these from your own views.
  • Provide a reference list.
  • Paper should be 3-4 pages but no longer than 4 pages. (Graders stop reading if paper is over 4 pages.)
  • Students are instructed in assignment sheet: “ You should roughly cover 15-20 points per page.”
Reference Liststudents are instructed to NOT USE quotations but to parenthetically cite if paraphrasing
    • Sidlow, E. and B. Henchen. (2008). America at odds. 6th Ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • ELAT
    • FEC National Clearinghouse on Election Administration. (2003). The pros and cons of the Electoral College System. Retrieved March 25, 2008 from http://uselectionatlas.com/INFORMATION/INFOMRATION/electcollege.procon
  • LWV
    • League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, Choosing the President (1992). The Electoral College. Retrieved March 25, 2008, from http://www.hks.harvard.edu/case/3pt/electoral.html
additional advice given students
Additional Advice Given Students
  • You are asked to make a persuasive argument in writing. You should try to convince a reader of your opinion. State you position on the proposed amendment, including the reasons for your opinion. This is often done in one or a few sentences that summarize the argument you will make in the rest of the essay.
  • A thesis statement 1) tells the reader whether you oppose the proposed constitutional amendment; 2)is a road map for the paper; it tells readers what arguments will follow; 3) makes a claim that others might dispute
holistic process
Holistic Process
  • In groups of three, do a “read-around” of the set of three papers you now have. Sort High, Medium, and Low.
  • Before you begin reading the sample papers, read through the Holistic Scoring Rubric for a Thesis-Restricted Paper.
hierarchy of rhetorical concerns
Hierarchy of Rhetorical Concerns

Audience, Purpose, Occasion

Focus: Thesis, Reasons, Unity/Coherence

Development: Reasons, Evidence, Explanation

Style/Mechanics/Conventions: Readability, Care and Polish, Patterns of Error

sort read and comment or stop drop and roll
Sort, Read, and Comment (or Stop, Drop, and Roll)

You would apply the same strategy if you had a set of papers here. You would skim through the set of papers. While this sounds like a time-consuming extra step, it actually saves you time in the long run.

Here’s what you might do if you had that stack:

  • Sort into three stacks—high, medium, low
  • If possible, stack within categories (High + and High -) so that you have 6 stacks
  • Read with hierarchy of concerns in mind
  • Provide an end comment that is forward-looking and focused
  • Substantiate end comment with a few marginal comments
analytic criteria use a scoring tool to assist with grading

Analytic CriteriaUse a scoring tool to assist with grading

Consider Three Approaches

standard rubric

benchmark and anchor papers

continuum approach

approach 1 standard rubric as scoring tool
Approach #1: Standard Rubric as Scoring Tool

Component Parts

  • Assignment itself
  • Dimensions/priorities/criteria
  • Scale with levels of achievement. Levels can be continuums or reflect categories such as “proficient,” “competent,” “needs work.” These need not be points.
  • Specific commenting room/space
steps for creating standard rubrics or scoring sheets
Steps for Creating Standard Rubrics or Scoring Sheets
  • List key elements/features to assess, based on course and assignment objectives
  • Refine and simplify key elements, then consider their relative importance or weight
  • Do a common sense check to see if weighting of criteria is meaningful. Avoid points. Percentages are better but keep them broad. Too much refinement can lead to “grade-grubbing.”
  • Decide if you’ll give feedback on all criteria, on certain ones, or only in an end comment
  • Make clear where the overall grade appears
approach 2 benchmark and anchor papers
Approach 2: Benchmark and Anchor Papers

Consider writing a paragraph that explains what’s necessary for a C paper for this assignment. In other words, what MUST a paper accomplish to be deemed “adequate”?

Then write a paragraph explaining how the B paper improves upon the C. (The B paper does everything the C paper does but goes further to…)

Then write a paragraph explaining how the A improves upon the B. (The A paper does everything the B paper does but goes further to …)

It can be useful to distribute or post this explanation

Remember: you are only assigning a grade; students earn those grades. You do not GIVE grades. They do not GET grades. Consider using a 24-hour moratorium and a conference plan for grade protests.

approach 3 the continuum approach
Approach 3: The Continuum Approach

Once you have determined the most important aspects or criteria for grading, consider using a continuum to describe where the student is in their application of this criteria. This avoids the oft-times awkward approach of assigning points with criteria-based evaluation.

Example (criteria 3) from the Washington State U “Critical Thinking Guide”:

Identifies and considers salient perspectives and positions important to the issue’s analysis

Scant Substantial


grading criteria listed on the pols 101 assignment sheet
Grading Criteria Listed on the POLS 101 Assignment Sheet

1) Clarity of argument and organization

2) Quality of analysis. You need to make your position on the issue clear. Provide arguments that are supported by information (i.e., evidence)

3) Quality of writing. Your ideas need to be clearly expressed. This includes proper spelling, grammar, expression of ideas, and citation of sources

critical thinking rubric
Critical Thinking Rubric

Source: Washington State University


managing your time through a 3 part end comment
Managing Your Time Through a 3-Part End Comment
  • Sum up the strengths of the paper
  • Identify the main problems to be worked on
  • Provide a specific suggestion for how to improve the paper, based on the main problem(s) already identified

And Remember:

  • You can’t respond to everything in a paper.
  • There are real people on the receiving end.
  • Comments are not principally for “justifying” a grade. Your are providing formative feedback students can use with the next paper, even if it’s not in this class.
  • Consider using questions in your marginal comments.
peer review of comments
Peer Review of Comments
  • Identify the major strength your partner noted in this paper. What locations did the GTA point out to substantiate this claim of strength?

How accurate do you believe this evaluation is?

  • Identify the guidance or advice your partner noted as a central concern in this paper. What locations did your partner identify to substantiate the claim of “needs improvement”

How accurate do you believe this evaluation is?

  • Identify the concrete suggestion for improvement that your partner noted. Would an undergraduate understand this advice and be able to follow it?

How accurate do you believe this advice is?

  • Characterize the tone/attitude of feedback your partner has provided. Could it be improved and if so, how?
  • Are your partner’s comments forward-looking and formative in nature or do the comments seem defensive, as if justifying the grade?
reminder you are managing your time by choosing your battles hierarchy hierarchy hierarchy
Reminder: You Are Managing Your Time By Choosing Your Battles—hierarchy, hierarchy, hierarchy!
  • Apply minimal marking technique
  • Avoid becoming your students’ copy editor as that is NOT your job and error correction is not instructional. Remember you are part of the instructional team, not an editor.
  • To instruct students on grammar issues, look for patterns of error or try to characterize error if you feel it is impeding the student’s message. Work with a Top 5 list of errors.
  • Severe cases should represent <2% of papers. For these, you will need additional support.
    • Non native speaker/writer issues: tenses, dropped articles, strings of sentences arranged the same
    • Learning Disabilities: misspellings even with spell check, omitted words, homonyms
  • Carelessness: Consider a “return to sender” policy on first occasion or the “R” grade. Must be approved by professor and not all will believe this is a good idea.
revision processes and strategies for gta intervention
Revision Processes and Strategies for GTA Intervention

Early, mid and late interventions

  • Early
    • Topic proposal (subject, topic, issue, question)
    • Research question + tentative thesis
    • Seminal source description
  • Mid
    • Annotated bibliography (text partners) or source evaluation
    • Summary and response to one source
    • Quote and paraphrase sheet for one source
    • Introduction review, especially if multiple sources. Use “templates” for entering conversation
    • Prospectus in full sentences (one page)
  • Late
    • Full draft workshop on one paper
    • Full draft peer review on all papers
    • Conference—writers talk about the draft they bring and revision plan
responding to wtl wte and threaded electronic discussions aka discussion forums
Responding to WTL/WTE and Threaded Electronic Discussions (aka Discussion Forums)
  • If being used, you have basic decisions to make/discuss with prof about how to read and assess
    • Will you skim every entry and give whole-class feedback?
    • Will you read a random sample/scheduled group and give feedback to sample?
    • Will you decide in advance how many times over semester you will read and respond to each student?
  • Then generate accountability
    • Select good examples to show as models
    • Use a check mark system for recording—participation?
    • Observe length of responses
    • Provide prof with your observations to share with whole class
    • Discourage “texting” shortcuts in posts and for in-class writing
    • Expect and enforce a standard of courtesy and academic professionalism. Contact people on first evidence of discourteous shared writing. Be prepared for “confessions” of adolescent behavior