I just got an email from a student with a paper draft, but unfortunately, this student completely misunderstood the prompt. As a TA, I didn’t write the assignment prompt and I spent the entire discussion session trying to clarify it for the students. I went over what I was expecting and had them discuss, in groups, what they are planning to write about. I even tried to give examples. Unfortunately, I think I’m going to get quite a few papers that are completely confused.

I asked the lecturer to create some sort of grading rubric for the assignment so that I could let the students know how we would be grading it, but he never did. I think each TA is interpreting the assignment in our own way since the prompt was very vague. I have had to try to give the students some structure and direction because the assignment was so vague. Frankly, at this point I would rather just decide for myself how to grade them. If he creates a rubric after they have turned it in it will just be confusing and unfair to the students.

If the students misunderstand the assignment and write a good research paper instead, what should I do? Normally I would give a D or F if the student didn’t put in enough effort to thoroughly read the assignment. But if the assignment is completely confusing and unreasonable for a lower division, general education class, then how fair is it to penalize a student who made a genuine effort?

Maybe I’m just a big softy, but I don’t expect freshman to automatically know what modernism and postmodernism are or what geomorphology means. Should freshman already know those things? Because I sure didn’t when I was a freshman. I guess I should take a positive outlook on this class, because the lectures are completely post modern: it’s a collage, a montage, or some sort of performance art.

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