Warren writing changes grading

    For the first time in Earl Warren College history, students will only be able to take the Warren writing class for a letter grade. Out of the six writing programs at UCSD, the Warren writing program was previously the only one offered in only a ìpass or no passî grading system.

    Warren writingís pass or no pass grading policy has been an issue of debate for a number of years. In late April, the Committee on Educational Policy, a branch of the Academic Senate, agreed for a change. By June, when Warren College was notified of the decision, it was too late in the school year to consult with Warren faculty, according to Warren Provost Daniel Jordan.

    ìI think [having only letter grades] would encourage students to devote more energy and focus to the class,î said humanities professor Steven Cox, who was the Chairman of CEP at the time of the decision.

    One criticism of the pass or no pass policy was that without grades, students lack the motivation to work hard.

    ìWe want to [the students] to take risks with their writing. This is a process that is not likely encouraged by the new grading policy,î said Jordan, who was for retaining the ìpass or no passî grading system.

    Warren senior Michael Quach agreed with this view.

    ìItís no good,î Quach said. ìHaving letter grades puts too much pressure on the student.î

    Quach took the writing class during his freshman year, and said that he did not care about the class and found it time-consuming.

    ìMost Warren students are not literature majors,î Quach said. ìWe are mostly in the science field, and we donít care about writing.î

    Jordan recognized the argument for grades as legitimate.

    ìFor people who are pro-grades, they argue that students are getting grades in other classes,î he said. ìWhy would they put more time into Warren writing? Other classes that are graded are considered more important, and time and energy is robbed away from writing. That argument is also compelling.î

    In the past, almost all Warren writing students received a ìpass.î Few ever got a ìno pass,î according to Jordan.

    ìInstead of having students get a ëno pass,í we encourage them to drop the course. You can retake the course anyways, and do it again,î Jordan said.

    The small number of students in each writing class provides opportunity for close interaction between the TA and students.

    ìFor students who will not pass, we tell them early to come back next [quarter] with a new drawing board, a fresh start. But we donít know how weíd do that with the letter grade,î Jordan said.

    New grading criteria will be implemented this year for Warren writing. Warren faculty had to develop the new grading criteria over the summer, during their time off work.

    Cox felt that giving grades would not pose any big problems.

    ìI donít think that administering grades, given years of experience in grades, is going to be that much of a problem,î Cox said.

    CEP did not specific how the letter grades will be implemented.

    ìThe goal is to keep grading from dominating the scene. What we donít want to do is set grades that are wildly unreasonable,î Jordan said.

    The Warren faculty has full control in how students will be graded.

    ìGrades often help to clarify for the student how their work is progressing. It is a very clear signal, useful for checking progress and moral,î Cox said. ìIt easily tells you to what degree you are improving.î

    Past students who have received ìpassî in Warren writing classes cannot petition to have them retro-converted to a letter grade. For students who registered for the fall class as a ìpass or no pass,î their grading option is automatically changed to letter grading. For students who are re-taking Warren Writing to replace a ìno pass,î they will only be allowed to do so for a letter grade.

    More plans regarding UCSDís writing programs include forming a group of faculty members to read a selection of randomly selected student work in each of the six writing programs. CEP has decided that there should be such a committee by the end of the academic year.

    ìThis is an attempt to see what writing instruction is like,î Cox said. ìIt gives a little bit of new light on how well the instruction is and how well the writing courses are.î

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