Here is the language I use in my undergrad classes that have a portfolio-type assignment (from a 110 on the theme of film):
EVALUATION / GRADING: Students will be evaluated in three broad areas:
1) their ability and diligence in completing all writing assignments on time, reading and reflecting on assigned readings before class, and participating in class discussions.
2) their competence in meeting the learning objectives identified above.
3) their ability to demonstrate, through the pieces in their final portfolio and their meta-reflective cover letter, that they have made thoughtful and careful revision from earlier drafts.
In practice, the final grade will be more of a “negotiation” than a reward. Sometime during the final third of the semester, students should meet with me one-on-one. During this time we will discuss their current strengths and weaknesses and establish a set of expectations for the remainder of the semester. The student and I will agree on what is an appropriate final grade, dependent upon their completing a list of expectations. This list might include specific revision of certain assignments, good faith effort to participate more, or mastery of certain recurring problem areas. Students will submit a short memo outlining our conversation, to serve as a grading contract.
Here are the learning objectives for that particular course (this is what they get asked about in #2 above):
LEARNING OBJECTIVES for students will include:
- to gain a familiarity with a range of modes of communication, including informal writing, formal academic essays, MLA-style bibliography entries, and letters to peers and professors.
- to develop and use strategies for improving writing and critical thinking through recursive practice, self-reflection, and the process of revision.
- to demonstrate a link between writing and critical thinking by showing how the analysis of ideas is dependent on the ability to communicate them successfully.
- to demonstrate a mastery over basic methods of research and documentation, including how to identify and evaluate appropriate secondary sources for an academic essay, to select quotation for use as evidence, to integrate quotation, and to properly cite quotation using MLA style.
- to identify personal strengths and weaknesses in the process of composition, and to describe methods to achieve future success.
I find that students don’t really pay attention to the learning objectives, and perhaps see them as a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. So, one thing I have them do before we meet is a “Midterm Syllabus Quiz“[doc] that asks them to rank their progress on the learning objectives. It’s also an opportunity for me to discuss with the whole class what the learning objectives actually mean and to point out to them how my assignments indeed help them achieve those objectives.
Here’s my generic participation policy (it’s essentially the same one for our class):
PARTICIPATION: This is a linked course, so the themes and discussions in this course intersect with and compliment the issues in your Media Studies class. If you drop this course, you must also drop MDST 144. Since participation is crucial to your success, you should not miss more than three classes. I do not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences. If you come unprepared to class, you are not present; “coming unprepared” includes such things as not doing the reading, not bringing the text to class, sleeping during class, not making an effort to participate, arriving late or leaving early. If you know you cannot attend, contact me before to ask about homework; I do not accept late assignments.
Last, I can’t believe I forgot to say this in class, but the most important piece of paper grading advice I have is (I’ll even put it in bold):
Never spend more time grading a group of papers than you think the average student spent writing the paper. So, if you think an assignment takes 3 hours for a student to complete, then divide that by the number of students you have and spend that many minutes on each paper.