Create and disseminate a rubric to set expectations (e.g.,how important is grammar?)

A weekly one page reflection paper is not likely to carry the same writing style requirements as a final research paper, even for the same professor in the same class.   Most students will likely understand this and the different expectations for each of assignment in the syllabus.  However, for the students who did not grow up in the U.S. education system, those distinctions can differ from the expectations of their home cultures.  A rubric which clearly shows the factors affecting the grade is a helpful guideline for all students as they prepare assignments.  Prioritizing the aspects of the assignment that are critical to success takes the guesswork out of what you expect.

Assign smaller papers and/or a draft of the final paper (and return feedback promptly)
  • Many students learn by receiving clear feedback.  When a final project/paper is expected at the end of the course, it would be very helpful for students to have an opportunity to receive feedback on work they complete prior to the final project.  If possible, consider assigning smaller papers throughout the course and return clear and prompt feedback so the student knows how to focus energy on the final project.  If smaller papers are not possible, you may wish to offer (or require) that a draft of the final paper be turned in for feedback prior to the final deadline.  [Consider the use of the College of William and Mary’s Scaffolding Approach to research paper writing.]
  • Additionally, it will be helpful to explain how this feedback process works and what you expect the student to do with the feedback.

Provide clear comments at the point in the paper where an error occurs
  • Although it may be difficult write comments in the margins of the page, students will benefit from seeing your comment at the place of the problem.  In cases of serious grammatical issues, it may not be possible to comment at each occasion, but if you can point out one or two places of the most egregious errors and refer the student for further assistance, your comments will assist both the student and the tutor or writing instructor.

  • Note about use of editing symbols:  Although editing symbols are meant to be universal, not all students will have had the same exposure to them.  A legend or key defining the symbols you will use in your notes will be of help to all students.
Address issues of plagiarism and honor code violations explicitly
  • Plagiarism is a problem for many university students, and it is no surprise that students who have never studied in a western institution find the very concept challenging.  This is NOT to say that expectations of honor code enforcement should be lowered.  International students are JMU students and should be held to the same high standard of all students.  However, it is vitally important to give clear and explicit instructions for classroom expectations.  Is it permissible to work on a homework assignment together?  If so, is it permissible to submit the same document, or copies of identical documents? In any event, clearly state the expectations and explain the values behind your requirements. 

  • If you see behaviors that you are concerned about, do not hesitate to talk with the student(s) involved.  The sooner the behavior is addressed and expectations are made clear, the quicker the student can comply. 
  • An initial conversation may bring the issue to the student’s attention, but may not address the underlying reasons for the decision to use or claim another’s work. Refer the student to JMU’s English Language Learner Services or the University Writing Center for instruction in and practice with the proper ways to use and cite information.  It is important to understand and be sensitive to cultural issues that may be contributing to the situation. However, once those issues have been addressed, the professor should take disciplinary action where appropriate.

Refer students to English Language Learner Services and/or the University Writing Center

JMU is fortunate to have incredible resources for our students.  Please help inform your students of the tutoring services available in the Learning Centers, and the writing assistance that the English Language Learner Services and University Writing Center provide.   

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