Grading Policy – Contract Grading

from ENGL110: Seminar in Composition - General Section - Kathleen Lyons -- see full syllabus here. 

What have you left unquestioned about your ways of judging language or students? Do you think that the white racial habitus, that the historical white language biases in our disciplines and lives, have affected these places?

Asao Inoue, “How do we language so people stop killing each other, or what do we do about white language supremacy?” Chair’s Address, 2019 CCCCAnnual Convention
Asao Inoue has argued that assigning students grades based on assessments of their writing is racist. This is because the seemingly objective standards we often unquestionably apply to our rubrics -- categories like clarity, organization, etc. -- are inevitably subjective, and derived from white languaging standards, as it is white language that holds a historic position of dominance in our universities (Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies, 30). 

Moreover, grades are gatekeeping devices, determining students' access to future opportunities. Therefore, Inoue points out, in holding students' writing up to these standards and then assigning grades based on them, we inevitably reproduce systematic racialized inequalities in achievement. Inoue offers contract grading based on labor as an alternative, antiracist, way to evaluate students. Feedback can still be provided to students in this system, as can an awareness of the moves and features of dominant academic discourse; the point is that assessment is no longer dependent on students meeting white-body standards. His grading contract can be found here.

Kathleen Lyons has shared her efforts to implement a contract grading system in for her ENGL110 regular section, taught online asynchronously in the Fall of 2020. She stresses that it is a work in progress. In particular, Kathleen has questions about how to measure labor: "I like that contract grading lays out exactly what you have to do to get a certain grade, but I'm still uncomfortable about the idea of labor. We all labor in different ways and at different speeds so I'm still searching for ways to make the current contract grading policy more accessible."

Policies (ENGL110, General Section, Fall 2020, Online asynchronous)

My grading process

In an effort to engage with antiracist teaching practices, your grade for this course is based on a system of contract grading. Contract grades put the emphasis on the actual labor you do for this class. Rather than evaluate for quality of performance, which can be subjective, your grade in this class is solely dependent on how much work you put in. If you complete the expectations laid out in the “Labor Breakdown” section of this document, you will receive a minimum of a “B” for the course. In order to improve your grade, you must put in additional labor (outlined below). If you have questions and/or concerns, let me know. As with all contracts, you have the opportunity to negotiate with me if you feel something should be changed. Please outline suggested changes via email during the first week of the semester.

After reading this document and completing any necessary negotiations, please email me the following statement agreeing to our contract. This task is to be completed before the Add/Drop period (Tuesday, September 15). Your email should read:

Dear Professor Lyons,

I, [insert name], have read and agree to the terms and conditions laid out in the “Policies Document” for our course, English 110-027.


Student name

Labor Breakdown

Engagement Grade 20% of overall grade

Your engagement grade is made up of journal entries (discussion posts) and quizzes.

  • Complete 20 out of 20 = A
  • Complete 19 out of 20 = A-
  • Complete 18 out of 25 = B+
  • Complete 17 out of 25 = B
  • Complete 16 out of 25 = B-
  • Less than 15=C

Major Projectscollectively 80% of overall grade

Unit 1: Auto-ethnography: Who am I as a writer?—25%

Unit 2: Research Inquiry: What does writing do in the world? –30%

Unit 3: Remix: Making your writing publicly accessible—25%

Table 1 details the following grade qualifications:

To receive the grade of A, you will: submit a draft and revision, complete two peer reviews, meet with the professor, complete a written revision plan with a reverse outline, visual map, or other activity, include more than two extra sources with proper citation, leave a note of about 200 words detailing what changed from first draft and why, attend to formatting such as accessible document design, and complete a supplementary material post on Canvas of 400 words.

To receive the grade of B+, you will: submit a draft and revision, complete two peer reviews, meet with the professor, complete a written revision plan, include more than one extra source with proper citation, and leave a note of about 100 words detailing what changed from the first draft.

To receive the grade of B, you will: submit a draft and revision, complete one peer review, meet with the professor, and leave a note of about 50 words detailing what changed from the first draft.

To receive the grade of B-, you will: submit one draft and complete one peer review.

To receive the grade of C+, you will: submit one draft.

You will receive a failing grade if you do not submit any work.


I understand that things happen. Please communicate if you need more time on any assignment. If you contact me 24 hours before the deadline, then we can work out an alternative due date for you. Additionally, you get one freebie: You can submit something up to one week late with no questions asked and no permission required.

Revise and Resubmit

After you receive a grade, you may revise according to feedback and in consultation with the professor. Once you complete the revisions, resubmit your work any time before the end of term for an adjusted grade. In addition to revisions, you must also provide ~400 words reflecting on the changes your made. This note should provide details about your writerly decisions for what changed and why those changes were made.