Assignments, Evaluations, Grading Examples


FrenGen/ItalGen 284: Poetry and Philosophy (Fall 2010)

Professor Laura Wittman


Attendance and participation (20%): attendance at all seminars is crucial, as is doing the reading in order to be able to participate in discussion; the readings are philosophical and so I have deliberately made them as short as possible, to give you time to read carefully; as you read, do not get discouraged but rather come to class with lots of questions. Also, I very much encourage you to come to my office hours or to schedule a meeting time with me to discuss any questions you may have about the readings. Finally, there are no secondary readings in this course, as the materials are already theoretical, but I will happy to offer suggestions for further related reading.

For Undergraduates:

Oral presentation (20%): format and topics will be discussed with the members of the seminar; in general, presentations will be informational, e.g., author’s biography.

Two short argument analysis papers (60%), each 7-9 pages long: the purpose of each paper will be to pick one of our readings, and closely analyze how the argument unfolds as regards the relationship of philosophy and poetry, or more broadly, philosophy and art, and further, to evaluate how persuasive this argument is in the context of our other readings and our discussion. For the second and final analysis paper, you are also free to pick an author or text of your own choosing, in consultation with me.

For Graduate Students:

Oral presentation (10%): format and topics will be discussed with the members of the seminar; in general, presentations will be informational, e.g., author’s biography.

Book presentation (20%):present this day’s reading to the rest of the class, mainly by pointing out what you thought some of the more salient points of the argument were, and also by raising questions, pointing to parts of the reading that seemed obscure or unpersuasive. This presentation can then be incorporated into your paper.

Comparative argument analysis paper (50%), 15-20 pages: pick one of our readings (can be but does not have to be the one you presented to the class), and analyze its argument concerning poetry and philosophy in comparison with another reading, which can be from the course or can be by an author of your choice, chosen in consultation with me. The main purpose of the comparison will be not so much to decide whose argument is more persuasive in and of itself, but rather to explore how one thinker may add to, or constructively critique, another, allowing you as the reader to go further by putting them together, and particularly allowing you as a researcher to develop your own theoretical bases for your work.


Philosophy 80: Mind, Matter & Meaning (Fall 2010)

Fall 2010 Edition: Phenomenal Consciousness

Professor Alexis Burgess

Section is of course another venue to pursue lingering issues (and attendance is mandatory). We also encourage you to talk with your peers outside of class. I learned more philosophy in college and grad school just by talking with other students. Your TAs and I will all hold regular office hours as well, so you should feel free to pop in and talk shop as often as you like. Conversation often exposes flaws in ideas that may have seemed obvious before they were spoken, and inspires novel lines of thought in unexpected ways. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in front of other people. While we will of course be grading your papers, we will neverjudge you or your intelligence. That sounds touchy-feely, but I wish my teachers had said it more often.

Let’s not lose track of the fact that this course is supposed to emphasize the development of analytic writing skills. I won’t take up much class time talking about how to write, and your TAs will only take up slightly more of your section time. A former teacher of mine, Jim Pryor, has developed a guide to writing philosophy papers that is now used throughout the profession. A link to the document can be found in the left-hand toolbar on Coursework. But the mosteffective way to become a better writer is to write, rewrite, and then rewrite some more. There will therefore be six assignments for the course: three 6-page papers (double spaced, in Times 12 font, with 1-inch margins), each worth 20% of your final grade, and a first draft for each, worth 10% of your final grade apiece. The last 10% of your grade will be determined by your participation in the course: in section, lecture, office hours, etc.

There are two main dimensions to our paper-grading scheme: argument and writing. A very well-argued paper puts you in the A-range; a reasonably well-argued paper in the B-range; and a poorly argued paper in the C range. Evaluating the quality of the argument in your paper is a somewhat subtle art, and can seem more subjective than grading a problem set. Nevertheless, your TAs and I will meet regularly to make sure our standards are standardized, and in keeping with what you should generally expect in other philosophy courses. The main questions we’ll be asking ourselves when evaluating your arguments are always:

(1) Does the paper adequately address your chosen prompt?

(2) Have you correctly interpreted the authors you’re discussing?

(3) Is your main thesis significant, or are you attacking a “straw person”?

(4) Are your arguments original (relative to what we’ve already read for class)?

(5) Have you considered possible responses to them on behalf of your opponent?

Once we’ve determined which of the three main letter brackets your paper is in, we’ll evaluate the quality of your writing to see whether you’ve earned a + (very good), flat letter grade (fine), or - (poor). Now, this makes it sound like the argument and writing dimensions are completely independent of each other, but of course a poorly written paper can’t really be very well argued, because it won’t be possible to tell what the argument is! The main questions we’ll be asking ourselves when evaluating your writing are:

(1) Does the introduction accurately explain what you’re going to do in the paper?

(2) Is the structure of the paper evident, on a paragraph-by-paragraph level?

(3) Is your prose clear, concise, and easy to read?

No extensions will be granted, except under very extreme circumstances. We’ll deduct 1/3 of a letter grade for every day a paper is late. If you never turn in a paper, we’ll have to give you an F for that assignment. We’ll do our best to explain the grades we give you on each paper, in keeping with the scheme described here. Improvement from one assignment to the next isn’t double-counted as a boost to the grade you would have otherwise gotten.

Social Sciences

Poli Sci 137R, EthicSoc 137R, CSRE 137R, & Education 261X: Justice at Home and Abroad Civil Rights in the 21st Century (Winter 2011)

Professor Rob Reich

Class participation

It is crucial that you come to class having done the reading, prepared to talk and engage your fellow classmates. To that end, we have identified key questions for each class session in order to facilitate and focus your reading. These questions will be available on the website for the class; they will also be mailed to you a few days before each class.


Each student is expected to complete two papers and a final exam. We will comment at length upon your papers. Your grade will be determined by the clarity, cogency, conciseness, and creativity with which you make your argument. We believe that the style of your writing merits as much attention as the content. Before writing, we strongly encourage you to read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” available at the Coursework website. Please also consult the guide to writing political theory papers that will be distributed and is available on the website for the class. We suggest that you share your written work with your peers and a writing tutor.

A Note about Class and Section Participation

This course explores enduring and complex themes in the history of political thought and practice. Our goal is to facilitate your own explorations of freedom, equality, and security using the conceptual and legal tools we shall present in lecture and in section. Successful exploration of these ideals will require dialogue and discussion. In order to be prepared for discussion, it is essential that you come to each lecture having read intelligently the materials assigned and having given some thought as to how the readings relate to the course in general. This will allow you to benefit from the lectures and in turn prepare yourself to discuss the issues in depth in section.

You should come to section with considered views about (1) what the main claims offered in the texts or cases are; (2) the arguments offered in favor of these claims; (3) whether these are good or plausible arguments; (4) whether the claim is, all things considered, strong or plausible; (5) what alternatives to the claims and arguments exist; and (6) whether some alternative is superior to the claim under discussion. Objections are important. But keep in mind that raising puzzles and problems (even interesting puzzles and problems) for a view is easy: we can be certain in advance that every view will face some problems. But we are trying to decide what to think about important issues of enormous consequence, not playing a game or showing off debater’s skills. The really hard part is to figure out what to think – what we should think -- once we understand the range of theoretical options and competing arguments.

(These excerpts are informed by Professor Joshua Cohen’s syllabus PS3: Justice, Fall 2010)

Psychology 205: Foundations of Cognition (Fall 2013)
Professor Jay McClellan


Discussion preparation statements:

  For each class period, you should prepare a very brief written statement based on the readings for that day. Suggested length is 100 words, with a MAXIMUM length of 200 words. These statements are meant to help stimulate discussion. Among other things, these statements might summarize the argument or contrast the perspectives in the papers of the day, or they might offer an evaluation of the argument or raise questions about one or both papers.  They may try to connect the ideas in the papers to other
work or propose a way to extend the content to other areas in psychology.  These statements might identify any aspect of the paper you would like to discuss (e.g. if you did not understand something in the paper, if you could not relate to the ideas, or if you believed an experiment or model could be done differently).  These statements will not be graded, but we will be collecting and reading them, and completion of these statements will count toward the participation grade in the course.

Political Science 226: Race and Racism in Contemporary American Politics (Winter 2013)

Prof. Gary M. Segura

Requirements and Grading

There are no exams or tests in this seminar. Grades will be based on three components. The first is in-class discussion, and will account for 40% of the grade. No kidding. You are expected to be prepared on the material and come ready to discuss it. It will help you if you make a few notes of questions you have, or points you want to challenge, etc, as you are reading. I will keep track of both your attendance and contributions to discussion. Missed classes, or a failure to contribute to seminar discussion, will seriously affect your grade. The second component involves in-class presentations and the third is short papers to accompany the presentations. Four times during the quarter, you will be broken into teams of 4-5 students each and engage in a short research effort which will result in a) a group presentation of your findings to the entire seminar, preferably showing creativity and the use of supporting materials including overheads, videos, handouts, Powerpoint, charts and graphs, etc; and b) an individual 2-3 page paper (written individually, not with the group) summarizing the central point of your group’s presentation. Group membership will change for each assignment. In some instances, each group will work on a different question, while in other weeks all of the groups are presented with the same question. The presentations will augment the reading and serve as a basis for our discussion. The four presentations and papers will comprise 60% of your quarter grade. (Each combination is worth 15%).


CEE 203: Probability and Statistics in Civil Engineering (Fall 2010)

Professor Jack Baker


Grades will be computed using the following weighting scheme:

Homework: 25%

Midterm: October 28th in class 35%

Final exam: December 9th, 12:15-3:15pm, 40%

Homework assignments will typically consist of calculations that develop understanding of the materials presented in class. Exams will be similar to the homework in content and format, so if you can easily complete the homework assignments then you should be able to successfully complete the exams. If you are not able to attend on either of the exam dates, please speak with me immediately.

Interdisciplinary Courses

ENGL88N: Graphic Novels Asian American Style (Winter 2013)
Professor Stephen Sohn

Final project + Self Evaluation + Writing Portfolio:

 The final project will require students to complete a collaborative graphic novel (groups can be between 2-3 members).  The length is dependent upon the members of the group:

2 members = 2-4 pages (mini comic) + 4 page analytical document
3 members = 4-6 pages (mini comic) + 6 page analytical document

The graphic novel will NOT be graded on artistic quality, but rather on the ways that the student groups critically engage their own artistic creation.

The self-evaluation is a 4-6 page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, traditional font) assignment turned in at the conclusion of the course in which the student must evaluate his or her performance or trajectory over the course of the academic quarter, how the student grew in terms of his or her intellectual knowledge base concerning issues of difference, race, ethnicity, and systemic oppressions.

The writing portfolio simply is a collection of all the important writings and reading responses completed throughout the course; you can choose to include any sketches, classroom notes, or other items that you would want to include.