The course that I have in mind as I write this is ENG102. That course is a pre-requisite course for many of the other courses at my institution. That means that in order to pass the course and move on to those other courses, your final project should meet the minimum qualifications for development and content. At 50% of the minimum length, that's not possible.
I hear you--you're saying, well maybe I'm a great writer and I can say what I mean so concisely and so well that I could write a 7 page paper for a 10 page assignment and do everything I'm supposed to do. This is theoretically possible; however, rarely is it only the length that knocks a paper out of contention for a passing grade.
Another objection might be that "well, my topic was such that I couldn't write that much" or "there isn't enough research for my topic for me to cover it well." That, my dears, is part of the point of a course like this. You are to demonstrate that you are aware of the criteria to an extent that you can apply it in your topic choices and in deciding if something will work for the assignment parameters. There are few things more frustrating than advising a student that their topic for the final would work great for a standard position paper (essay 1) but is not going to give them what they need to excel on a proposal (essay 3) only to have the student stick to their guns for two weeks and then for them to panic when they discover that the gal with 20+ years in the field was, by golly, right about the topic being a poor choice for the assignment.
So, as I start a new term with a new group, here's what I'm doing to hopefully head some of these issues off at the pass:
- I have a new board in my class that is "read only" to the students (I make them readers under the DB management feature in Bb). Here is where I will house the APA template, the rubrics I use for assessing rough drafts, and most importantly "approved topics/forbidden topics" handouts.
- I started the course with a handout that shares a variety of good, current issues that would work well for Essay 1. Each topic has an APA formatted reference to an article that could be used as one of the three sources for the first paper.
- I will be providing such a handout for each of the three major papers in the class.
- In addition to those "good" topic suggestions, students are made aware that they cannot write about conspiracy theories or "made up" controversies like whether we should be allowed to say "Merry Christmas." They also are told why they can't write about things like vaccines and Autism, abortion, same-sex marriage, or whether God or aliens exist.
- I will continue, as I have in the past, to ask students to quote from the assignment sheets as they describe the criteria and how they are meeting it.
- I will continue, as I have in the past, to reference specific course content (page numbers in our book, for instance) in discussion prompts and expect students to demonstrate they are reading the material (and understanding it) and can apply the concepts.
So, if you are a current (or future student), keep these things in mind as you start my class. My goal is to set you up for success.
For past students, note that not meeting minimum requirements is just that--it's work that falls below competency levels. To inflate the grade because you indicate that's what you *need* to move forward, even though your work demonstrates you are not ready to go forward, would be a disservice to you. The class is a pre-requisite because the institution expects you to have those skills before you enter the next phase in your academic career.