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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Incentives for first drafts

I mentioned last week that I will be having students in my upper-division writing class working together as 'co-authors'. But I'm still trying to figure out how to distribute points for each assignment. I want students to take their first drafts seriously so I feel like some part of their grade should depend on that first draft. On the other hand, I don't really want to grade the first draft the same way I would the final draft (mostly a time thing - I simply don't have the time to grade thirty papers in 48 hours with the care I would want), and I want students to take their revisions seriously as well. I've considered not assigning grades to the first draft at all and simply taking points off the assignment as a whole if they don't do a first draft, but I worry that then they won't take the first draft very seriously. Maybe that's OK, since they will have to do a revision anyway and the first draft at least makes them put their thoughts down, but since those first drafts will be reviewed by a classmates, I'd prefer that they be as good as the students can make them at that point. I've also considered making the first draft some small percentage of their assignment grade, like 10 or 20 percent, but then I feel like I'll actually need to grade the first draft. And I've considered basing part of their grade on the improvement between their first and final drafts but that seems like it could create a weird incentive for them to purposely write crappy first drafts.

Maybe there is no way to really incentivize strong effort on the first draft if I'm not willing to put the time into grading those drafts, but if anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

2 comments:

  1. Since it sounds like there are some basic components to the first draft (collecting data, making a graphic, and writing a couple of paragraphs), the grading on the first draft could be fairly perfunctory. Did they actually do all three of these things or not? Quick to observe, allowing you to turn them over quickly and ensure that everyone did a basic draft that can be peer reviewed. Since the next step is peer revision, the thought that one of their classmates will read their paper tends to be sufficient motivation to write something good enough to not be embarrassed by it.

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  2. Thanks Angela! I think you're right about the embarrassment incentive. Ironically, last year, I remember one student saying that he didn't turn in his first draft at all because he knew it wasn't very good and he didn't want his classmate to see it (which is one reason why I feel like I can't rely on that alone!).

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