Department of Writing

Portfolio Grading FAQ

Portfolio FAQ

Questions you might have:

1. Why is a group of Writing 150 teachers reading my papers and determining my final grade rather than just my own teacher?

A group of four or five teachers (including your teacher) has been reading samples of your class's writing throughout the semester to discuss and agree about what is an A, B, C, D, and F paper. The goal of the instructors in the group is to set fair and accurate grading standards. The standards will develop after discussing samples from your class and other classes throughout the semester. This agreement between two Writing professors will constitute the bulk of your grade.

2. Does my teacher have any say as to what grade I get on my portfolio and what grade I receive in this class?

Yes. Your teacher will always be one of at least two portfolio readers of your work at the end of the term. If the second reader in the group agrees with the first reader about the grade for your portfolio, then that agreement will determine the grade you receive on the portfolio. If the second reader does not agree with your teacher, then a third reader will be asked to read your portfolio. If the third reader agrees with your teacher, then the grade stands. If the third reader agrees with the second reader, then your grade is based on the agreement of readers two and three. The goal is to arrive at a "community" grade rather than a grade based solely on one teacher's preferences.

3. What happens if one person in the portfolio group grades much harder than the others?

Doesn't this mean I'll probably get a low grade if that person reads my portfolio? No, not necessarily. If the second reader does not agree with your teacher, a third reader is asked to read your portfolio and decide which of the first two readers is closest to the standards that the portfolio group has agreed about during the semester. (See question #2)

4. I think each teacher should grade his or her own students' work.

Each teacher does have a hand in grading their students' work, but the portfolio groups assure students that their grades are a reflection of community standards--departmental and university.

5. How can the portfolio group grade my papers if they haven't seen the assignment?

Writing 150 is a course that is designed to give you practice and instruction in the various kinds of writing that you will be asked to do throughout college. The portfolio group therefore wants to be general in their assessment of your writing. They want to look at three samples of your writing and describe the group of three as "excellent," "good," "average," or "below average or failing." The ideal is that this grade reflects what most professors would say if they picked up your portfolio and read it. We want your grade to be based on the general quality of your writing alone, not on how well the writing satisfies teacher-specific instructions.

6. My teacher said that I have to type single space, have fewer than two sentence fragments, and underline the thesis statement in every essay just to get a C. If the portfolio group doesn't know this, then what happens?

Teachers often have "minimum requirements" that they want every paper to meet. For example, some say that a paper can't be handed in more than one day late. When teachers have such requirements that may not be the same as other teachers in the portfolio group, they will enforce those requirements by making sure you meet them before you submit a portfolio to the portfolio group at the end of the term. This way, everyone who reads your portfolio will assume it has met any teacher-specific minimum requirements. If you don't meet minimum requirements that your teacher sets, your teacher won't allow you to submit a portfolio at the end of the term.

7. Could two people in my portfolio group agree that I deserve a B and then my teacher give me a C anyway because of absences or class participation?

The portfolio grade is the "bulk" of your grade for the semester. For teachers who use percentages, this usually means between 70 and 90 percent. Typically you should not expect your grade to be adjusted beyond a plus or a minus for the grade the portfolio group (which includes your teacher as first reader) gives you. If your grade needs adjusting down a whole letter grade, you probably didn't meet the minimum requirements (e.g. too many absences) and you should not have been allowed to submit a portfolio in the first place and been given an F. If a teacher over in Biology looks up your grade in WRT 150, they should be assured that this grade basically reflects how well you write, not your attendance, your improvement, or your good (or bad) attitude.

8. Just looking at my portfolio at the end of the term doesn't show how much I've improved. Shouldn't my grade be based, at least in part, on my improvement?

No. Your grade in WRT 150 should be based on the quality of your writing at the end of the term. This way, what counts as A, B, C, D, or F is, we intend, the same for every student. Teachers can adjust grades (usually with a plus or a minus) based on your participation, improvement, or other factors.

9. I like to have grades during the semester so that I know how well I am doing. I don't want my grade at the end of the term to come as a big surprise.

We agree. Your teacher should be reading your writing throughout the semester and responding to it with comments, personal conferences, endnotes, and suggestions for revision. Most 150 classes have tutors from the Writing Center that work with you and point out strengths and weakness in your writing. And many teachers will have you read and comment on other students' work. For most students, a grade is not necessary for early drafts because the proper focus is on what the paper could be, not on what it is. But if you want a grade on an assignment and your teacher has not given one, just ask. The teacher will be able to tell you where she thinks the paper falls within the range of A to F. The teacher will probably tell you what she and others in the portfolio group have been saying about writing like yours. Don't be surprised if the teacher says, for example, that some in the group might say C and she, or others in the group, might say B. Group members often disagree, especially early in the semester, about what is an A, B, and C. If the teacher says your paper is probably a low B or a C, your next question should be: "what could I work on in this paper that would improve it?" Your teacher should love this question and this should give you the feedback you need to feel encouraged to try an make even a good paper better.

10. It seems to me that the portfolio-grading system is all about judging final products. I thought we were supposed to be interested in the writing process?

At GVSU we use portfolios as "grading groups" to respond to the need to develop community standards and to respond to the University's desire for a "check" on how well students can write before they move on to the upper-level courses. One aim (there are others) of the portfolio system is to protect students from being misled by "easy" graders and being treated unfairly by "hard" graders. Nevertheless, our composition program is very much concerned that you are learning strategies and skills that help you develop your own writing process. In fact, because the portfolio group grading system focuses on what you can do at the end of the semester as represented by your portfolio, it encourages and gives opportunity for every paper (except for the in-class paper) to be revised. Revision is the heart of the writing process.

11. The portfolio group read my paper but didn't give me feedback. Why not?

The portfolio groups are only concerned with grading. Your teacher is part of your portfolio group and his or her feedback on your paper should be counted as feedback from the portfolio group. Your teacher is helping to set standards in your portfolio group, so listen up when she comments on your papers. It is your teacher's job to give feedback and help on your writing. If you aren't getting it, ask again. Also, don't overlook the value of getting help from the writing tutor and the other students in your class.

13. What is supposed to be in my portfolio?

Every student should submit three papers, including one with citations and references. Ask your teacher if you are not sure. Your teacher and the other students should help you make good choices about what goes in the final portfolio.

14. Can I include a paper in my portfolio from another class?

No. All papers in your portfolio must have been assigned and seen by your teacher. Students that submit work from another class or work that is not his or her own will be failed and the dean of students will be notified.

Page last modified January 29, 2007