Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Feedback: Progress Reports

Or, The Paradox of the Heap

Tomorrow, your progress reports are issued. You will have three grades: an adversarial, a set of questions on rhetoric and style for Edelstein, and a set of questions on rhetoric and style for Ebert. You will not get to see how you did on your timed rhetorical analysis essays until over break; the DAMAGES/C4 analysis was disrupted by my impromptu hospitalization, and I will not give you numbers until you also have feedback—and, of course, the time to study that feedback.

Which brings us to the paradox of the heap.

Twice every nine weeks, your teachers are asked [Note: That’s an interesting passive voice, isn’t it?] to draw arbitrary lines in the sand. When we do this, we look back and articulate, through canned commentary and somewhat oblique grades, how you are doing. Certain grades and commentary indicate that you are learning; others, that you are not. But this is obviously imprecise. Some of you still need to share your Chaos QORAS with me—be sure to check your email, while you’re online—but that’s an easy one; all of you will have progressed further the day after these progress reports are posted. Like the heap linked to above (you are still reading every link, aren’t you?), it’s a vague and sometimes inaccurate kind of report.

Because, of course, you are in charge of your progress. For the adversarial, you were given explicit annotations on exactly which comments earned what number of points; you spent an entire day looking this over to prepare you to discuss online the next adversarial, which will be tabulated and scored beginning on 12/20. For the QORAS covering Edelstein, you were given emails and exemplars through Google Drive—so many, in fact, that you were given another day in class just to read that feedback. And for the QORAS you wrote on Ebert’s review, you have just received a set of similarly scaffolded feedback: an exemplary response, plus the option to conference with me for further feedback on your grade. Again, you should check your email for that feedback. I will give you your actual group responses tomorrow, after I know you’ve had a period to look at the exemplars.

In general, the paradox of the heap tells us that grades, while important, aren’t the key. As long as you check your email, pick up all handouts, and take full advantage of the time you are given, you should know exactly how you are doing in this class. The final piece of that puzzle came today in the form of those grades, however, so take the time to look at all this. And if you are wondering about how you can improve those grades, well, just make sure you’ve read that last post.

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