Ball State Writing Program Information



Best Practices in Writing Feedback and Evaluation




Five English courses (English 101, 102, 103, 104, and 114) make up the first-year writing sequence at Ball State. The Writing Program team provides supervision and leadership for these five courses. Each Writing Program course must follow university and Writing Program policies.

Here are some of the key policies, you need to be aware of:

To pass the course, you must attend and participate in the course. Your instructor may deduct points for your unexcused absences, being late, leaving class early, or failure to participate in class activities according to the policy stated on the syllabus. The Writing Program mandates that a pattern of unexcused absences amounting to more than 20% of the classroom learning hours in a course will automatically result in a failing grade. Thus, in a course meeting twice a week, more than six (6) absences will result in a failing grade. In a course meeting three times a week, more than nine (9) absences will result in a failing grade.

To pass the course, you must abide by the university’s Student Academic Ethics policy. All students at Ball State are required to adhere to standards of academic integrity set forth by the University in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Section VII, “Student Academic Ethics Policy.” This policy addresses the issue of plagiarism. A writer plagiarizes when he or she uses someone else’s writing or ideas but does not give that person credit. All cases of academic dishonesty in Writing Program classes will be reported to the appropriate university office in compliance with the Academic Ethics Policy.

You must receive a C or better or you will need to repeat the course. In order to fulfill the University’s Core Curriculum requirement in a Writing Program course, you must earn a minimum grade of C; a grade of C- is not considered acceptable. Writing Program courses may be repeated as many times as necessary to meet the requirement but:

·         The first and all other grades will show up on the transcript.
·         Only the most recent grade earned in the course will be used to                  compute the cumulative GPA.
·         A grade of W will not replace a previous grade.
·         Course credit hours apply only once to graduation requirements.

You must abide by the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities and not obstruct or disrupt the teaching or learning within your writing classroom. According to the student code, students who continually disrupt the learning environment may be asked to leave the class.(See the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Appendix Q for more details.)

You must read and follow additional guidelines provided by your instructor to be successful in this course and follow university policies to successfully earn your degree. It is your responsibility to ask questions if you are unclear about a policy or procedure.

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Best Practices in Writing Feedback and Evaluation

Rhetorical Focus and Program Goals

The Writing Program’s student-writing evaluation guidelines reflect our program’s emphasis on the rhetorical nature of writing, reading, and learning, as well as on the importance of inquiry. Thus, student writing is evaluated according to its rhetorical effectiveness—rather than “correctness”—at all levels: content, style, and mechanics.

Student-writing evaluation, therefore, gauges how well students develop effective rhetorical skills and helps students develop those skills further in the process of the semester to become more competent writers. These goals can be reached by creating assignment-specific rubrics that help students identify their strengths and weaknesses, and encourage their success as writers. Instructors must communicate clearly how each writing task/assignment will be evaluated and graded.

Assignment-specific rubrics—and student-writing evaluation in general—corresponds with the program goals.

Student-Oriented Rubrics

Student-writing evaluation is not punitive but rather instructive and encouraging of success. When appropriate, rubrics may be developed to evaluate specific assignments. Such rubrics can help ensure that the instructor’s expectations are communicated well to the students, so that the evaluation and the final grade make sense to them.

The language in the rubric echoes the language of the prompt or assignment sheet. The rubric language is specific, concise, and accessible. The rubric may be used not only for evaluating a given project but also as a self-evaluative and peer-review tool at various stages of the assignment process. Also, the rubric is discussed with the students beforehand, so that they know the instructor’s expectations regarding the assignment.

In other words, the rubric is student oriented and is used as a communicative tool between the student, peers, and the instructor. In addition to using clear, student-oriented language, effective rubrics are brief—fit on one page.

[That said, the Writing Program does not require that instructors use rubrics for student-writing evaluation, as long as the instructor communicates with the students about evaluation and expectations and meets the program goals.]

Process-Based Evaluation

Student writing is evaluated and graded, with clear feedback, in accordance with the assignment. Additionally, student writing is evaluated in the context of writing processes:

  • As a historical object, as the accumulation of the student’s writing process
  •  As a sample in a corpus of the student’s other writing
  •  As a sample in a corpus of all student writing within the class for a particular assignment

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Why are writing classes required at Ball State?

The university community believes that achieving excellence in writing and reading serves you in five ways:

  • Professionally, by forwarding your career goals and aspirations,
  • Academically, by giving you practice in some of the genres and conventions of academic writing and research,
  • Democratically, by enhancing your citizenship and participation in the public sphere,
  • Critically, by fostering your development as thoughtful and reflective consumers/ producers of cultural products (both text-based and image-based), and
  • Personally, by nurturing insights into the connections among self, others, and environment essential for self-actualization and aware everyday living.

Your experiences in Writing Program classes are designed to forward those goals, providing you with the learning necessary for you to succeed in your chosen career, involve yourself in the civic sphere (from neighborhood to national politics), assess and evaluate cultural pressures and products, and deepen your sense of yourself and your connection to the physical and social world around you.

Why is participation so important in this class?

Some things we may be able to learn by listening to someone talk about them, but many skills require that we actually take a hand at doing the skills, repeatedly, before we can achieve a level of proficiency. Part of the learning process involves making mistakes and getting feedback on those mistakes so we can do better the next time. Writing is a skill that we can hone by continual practice and feedback. Large group discussions and small group work allow students to build skills essential to writing. Peer feedback groups or partners give students specific feedback on their own work in order to continue to develop as a writer. Importantly, the acts of giving and receiving feedback, of contributing and listening in large group discussions, all help students become better at communicating.

My roommate is in another section that I think I’d like better. Can I switch sections?

There is a small window for changing sections called the change-of-course period during the first five days of the semester. During that time, you may drop your current section and add the other section only if there are spots available. Instructors may not add or drop you; this is something you must do yourself. Instructions are available online or you may contact your advisor for help.

How do I find the Writing Program office? Who works in the Writing Program office?

The Writing Program office is on the second floor of Robert Bell in RB 295. You can call the office at 765-285-8370. In that office, you’ll find:

  • Melissa Hull, Administrative Assistant,
  • Morgan Gross, Graduate Assistant to the Director,
  • Mary McGinnis, Graduate Assistant to the Director,
  • Mary Clark-Flynn, Associate Director of the Writing Program,
  • Dr. Mike Donnelly, Director of the Writing Program,

What are office hours? How do I find my instructor’s office?

Each writing program instructor has scheduled set hours each week to meet with students to answer questions. These are called “office hours” and you can expect to find your instructor in his or her office. Your instructor should list his or her office number and office hours on the course syllabus. If you cannot find the office, you can stop in the English Department office (Robert Bell 297) to ask for the office number. During office hours, your instructor may also be able to take phone calls or chat online with you. Check with your instructor if this is a possibility.

I’m having a family emergency. What do I do?

Notify your instructor as soon as possible about how the emergency will affect your attendance and work in the class. Note that your absences will not necessarily be excused (see below) by the instructor, nor is the instructor required to accept late work from you.

What are excused absences? If I tell my instructor I will be gone, is my absence excused?

The university student code allows excused absences in the case of the death of an immediate family member (see Student Code, Appendix M) and instructors may excuse you in the case of course field trips or related activities (see guideline here). As a student, you are responsible for providing documentation and for making up missed work. In all other cases (doctors’ appointments, illness, ill family members, car trouble, etc.), you may inform your instructor about having to miss a class, but you will not be “excused.”

I’m having a difficult time in my writing class because of another student, a policy, an assignment, or because of my instructor. What do I do?

First step: talk to your instructor. Ask your instructor before or after class if there is a time you could meet to discuss your concerns. At the meeting, tell your instructor what your concerns are. Your instructor will listen and take appropriate action. If you have met with your instructor and you still have concerns, you may make an appointment to talk with the director of the Writing Program (Dr. Donnelly: 765-285-8370 or

How do I find out my current grade in this course?

At any point in the semester, you can ask your instructor to meet to discuss your grade. Some instructors will also post course grades on Gradebook or BlackBoard. Ask your instructor if he or she will use one of these.

How do I withdraw from my course? When is the last day to withdraw?

To withdraw from your writing class or any class at Ball State, you will need to complete and submit the Individual Course Withdrawal form located at the Registration Office (in Lucina Hall B43) no later than 4 p.m. on the last day of the withdrawal period for the current term. You do not need your instructor’s permission to withdraw.

Should you need to withdraw from all classes after the semester begins, you must report to the Office of the Assistant to the Dean, Student Affairs (Administration Building, room 238) and complete a withdrawal form.

A “W” will appear on your transcript for any class that you withdraw from, but it does not affect your GPA. (More information can be found here).

I’m not happy with my final grade. What can I do?

Ball State has a clear policy for appealing your final grade in the Student Code (section 6.7). To initiate the grade appeal process, you must contact your instructor in writing within 10 days of grade posting. The University Grade Appeal Committee will only address those appeals for which a procedural or fairness issue is in question. The criteria for a grade appeal are:

  1. An obvious error in the calculation of the grade.
  2. The assignment of a grade to a particular student by application of more exacting or demanding standards than were applied to other students in the course.
  3. The assignment of a grade to a particular student on some basis other than performance in the course.
  4. The assignment of a grade by a substantial departure from the instructor’s previously announced standards.

Please contact the Writing Program Director with questions on this process.

How do I get my final project or portfolio back from my instructor?

Your instructor will tell you when your project will be available for pick-up. Instructors are asked to keep projects or portfolios for the first month of the following semester; do not expect your instructor to save your project beyond this point.

My writing class was my favorite class this semester. What other classes would I like?

There are many classes where reading and writing are the focus in the English Department and probably in your major or minor. Ask your advisor to recommend some classes for you. If you enjoy the study of rhetoric and writing in multiple modes, you might consider coursework in the Rhetoric and Writing major or Professional Writing minor, like English 213: Introduction to Digital Literacies or English 231: Professional Writing. If you like discussing readings, you might like courses in Literature, like English 206: Reading Literature or English 230: Reading and Writing about Literature. Should you like to think about how languages work, you might like a course in Linguistics, such as English 220: Language and Society. Or, if you’d like to get more experience with creative genres, try English 285: Introduction to Creative Writing.

My instructor was awesome. Who should I tell?

Be sure to complete your end of the course evaluation. Evaluations are read carefully by your instructor and others in the department. You also could write a short note to your instructor letting him or her know how the class was valuable to you. Please consider sending your comments to the Director of the Writing Program, too.

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Writing is still hard.

Even after you have read through this entire book, writing is still hard. It is a skill that takes hours and hours of practice, and like any skill, if you get out of practice you can get rusty.

BallPoint will have provided you will some strategies for making writing easier, and to help you think through ideas of argument, audience and purpose, research, conventions, and revision. Following the suggestions and ideas in this book will help the hard parts of writing get easier. But BallPoint is just a guide, and in order for you to become a great writer, you need to write. If you take away only one idea from this book, let it be this: Write.

Write every day.

Write a letter to your mother. Write a poem about chocolate pie. Write a short story about your weekend. Write a haiku. Write an angry letter to a company that gave you poor service. Write a review of a movie or a book. Write a song about your dog. Write a thank you note to someone who smiled at you. Write a tweet or a text. Write a YouTube comment. Write a Facebook note. Write in Word, or in GoogleDocs, or Photoshop. Write an email to a politician, write a comment to a blogger. Write an argument about Star Wars or why your football team is the best. Write to tell someone you love them. Write with pen on paper. Write with chalk on the sidewalk. Write with 1s and 0s. Write on the arm of the person sitting next to you. Write on walls, on desktops, on pavement. Write.

Writing is hard.

But you can do it.

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The Ball State University Writing Program Handbook for English 101,102, and 103