English 111 (English Composition I) is an introductory course designed to bring college freshmen to college-level proficiency in composition skills. The college catalog describes the course:
111. English Composition I. (3 hours) Develops satisfactory college-level proficiency in basic skills of composition and reading comprehension. Students must demonstrate their ability to produce a portfolio of literate, reasonably logical and perceptive short themes. Grades given are A, A/B, B, B/C, C, or X (conditional incomplete–to be satisfied by repeating the course).
In order to ensure that all the goals of the course are met, the English Department has agreed that all teachers of the course share certain expectations for the content and conduct of the class. Individual professors may design the course in any way that will fulfill these expectations.
Basic expectations: course content
Students need a variety of opportunities to develop their skills at writing, including experience with revision. Professors should give students experience in a variety of modes of writing. All students should be required to write a minimum of six papers (with most papers exceeding 750 words), including papers that meet the expectations of the class portfolio. Professors may assign more than six papers, at their discretion. The Department does not establish a standard syllabus, standard textbook (except for the basic handbook), or standard assignments.
Formal research writing is not a primary element in this class (it is the focus of English 112); however, it is permissible to give students a basic introduction to the principles of incorporating outside sources in their writing. Remember that these students are often asked to write research papers in other classes during the first semester of their freshman year, even though they have yet to receive any formal training from the English Department on proper research methodology.
Another expectation of English 111 is that this course will also help develop the student’s ability to read. It is strongly encouraged that all professors develop courses that stress the interconnections of reading, writing, and thinking effectively. You may decide to pursue this goal through any means you find effective. Feel free to develop classes with a unified content theme and to make reading comprehension assignments part of your course requirements.
Grades in this class are a modified version of standard grades. The possible grades are A, A/B, B, B/C, C, and X. It is impossible to “fail” this class in the traditional sense; instead, students who do not meet a college level proficiency standard are given an “X,” which is a conditional incomplete (to be satisfied by repeating the course) that does not count against the student’s GPA. In order to achieve a C, the minimum requirement must be a passing portfolio (see below), plus a combined passing score on all course requirements.
Individual professors are encouraged to set additional specific minimum class standards for a C. Grades of A, A/B, B, B/C, and C should be based on a clear, well-defined standard established by the professor at the beginning of the semester. Be sure that your students understand the expectations you have for each grade level, and that you remain consistent in your requirements throughout the semester. Define your grading standards and class expectations in your syllabus; do not change the requirements listed in your syllabus without informing your students (and your Department Chair) clearly and in writing.
We require that a student must be given an “X” in the class if he/she does not produce a passing portfolio of essays. The portfolio must contain three passing essays, all of which demonstrate competency levels in all four major competency categories: content, support, organization, and grammar/mechanics. This competency level must be demonstrated on the first graded version, not on a revision that has resulted from a detailed faculty intervention. Obviously, students should be encouraged to improve and revise essays before they are graded, and we should feel free to guide revision, but the professor should not provide written feedback that is so specific that it (in essence) edits/revises the paper for the student. Additionally:
- The portfolio must contain at least one passing essay written entirely in class (a “test” essay). It is permissible, however, at the discretion of the instructor, to distribute material, texts, etc. ahead of time so students can become familiar with content that may be covered on the in-class essay. However, students should not be prompted as to the essay topic, nor should they be allowed to bring in anything resembling a generic paper outline or guide. This essay must also meet the minimum requirements of content, support, organization, and grammar/mechanics; it must meet these requirements on the draft that is prepared in class.
- The portfolio must contain at least one passing text-based essay.
- The portfolio must contain at least one passing essay that has gone through multiple drafts. These early drafts must be included with the graded version of the essay, which must, of course, meet the normal requirements of being a passing paper.
For a paper to be worthy of inclusion in the portfolio, it must reach at least a “C” level of competency in all four of the following areas: content, support, organization, grammar/mechanics. This “C” level must be reached without substantial intervention from the professor. In other words, though the professor should feel free to offer guidance and to discuss strategies in aid of the student writing, there needs to be a reasonable expectation that we are not to give undue assistance to writers. Never, for example, make corrections for a student and then give the student credit for the accuracy of the revised version. Our goal is to make our students self-sufficient.
Basic expectations in the evaluation of content:
The essay must fulfill the requirements of the assignment. It should be interesting, fresh, original, perceptive, and accurate; it should avoid platitudes, trite comments, and obvious statements. Evaluation of content is necessarily subjective, but we must do our best to expect high levels of content from our students. Please try to push your students to be thoughtful, creative and original.
Basic expectations in the evaluation of support:
Students must demonstrate their understanding of the difference between specific and general support. The essay should use sufficient details, examples, illustrations, etc., to develop the ideas of the essay’s main points.
Basic expectations in the evaluation of organization:
There must be a coherent organizational structure that is appropriate to the assigned mode of writing. The essay should be unified, with appropriate transitions and clear focus on a stated or implied thesis. Individual paragraphs should be unified, ordered, coherent and developed.
Basic expectations in the evaluation of grammar/mechanics:
Essays must be substantially free of major grammatical errors and free of excessive numbers of minor errors. The Department has agreed that the following errors are generally unacceptable: sentence fragments, subject/verb disagreement, comma splices, run-on sentences, and verb form errors. A lack of control over any of these errors, as demonstrated by a pattern or patterns of major grammatical errors, generally make an essay unacceptable for use in the portfolio, unless compensating virtues of the essay outweigh those errors. But isolated errors that do not significantly mar understanding of the paper are tolerated, although they may result in a lower grade or score. You can consider rating a student’s work as unacceptable if the student persists in repeating errors after those errors have been pointed out in an earlier essay.
The evaluation of grammar and mechanics should be holistic. Look for college-level literacy of grammar and mechanics.
Review of portfolios
Review of portfolios is primarily the responsibility of the professor. For new full-time professors, there will be a two semester training period to ensure that their standards are consistent with those held across the Department. All professors will have their portfolios spot-checked, and any professor may request outside review of portfolios (and indeed such review is encouraged when a portfolio is marginal). All part-time instructors will have their portfolios reviewed and spot checked by a faculty representative chosen by the Department Chair.
Training and mentoring of new and part-time faculty
During the two semester training period, new full-time professors will be paired with an experienced faculty mentor. This faculty mentor will assist my reviewing the new professor’s portfolios. The mentor will also look over sample papers after the first set of evaluations, and will continue to be available for consultation and assistance during the first two years of a new professor’s tenure. Part-time faculty will undergo a similar mentoring with a faculty member assigned by the Department Chair. In addition to the above, adjunct faculty will also take part in occasional workshops concerning our first year classes, and will be visited and evaluated each year by a faculty member assigned by the Department Chair.
Filing of portfolios
All professors must submit all student portfolios to the Department Chair at semester end. These portfolios will be kept on file so that the student’s English 112 instructor can consult the portfolio for background on the student’s ability and preparation for 112.
Below is a criteria checklist or grid that some Department professors use as a guideline for grading. Feel free to adapt it and/or distribute it to students.
Standards Updated by C. Cook, Spring 2008
Edited for the web by H. Barbaccia, Spring 2012