What it takes to succeed on my team (hint: it’s mostly initiative + attitude)

I’m prepping my Participatory Journalism syllabus for the spring semester and adding some descriptions of how I grade.

In my class, as with many others at Mizzou, the students are graded largely on their work in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian. I’m their professor in the classroom, and I’m also their boss on the community outreach team. So while they’ll have some typical classroom assignments, the biggest column in the gradebook is for their newsroom performance and their portfolio of work.

Because of that, I like to include a narrative description of the grade ranges, so students can know what to shoot for and so I have something to point to when grading. Here’s the one I’m working on for this semester.

newsroom success:

The underlying philosophy if this class is experimentation, invention and enterprise. If you show up in the newsroom for each shift waiting for instructions, and do only what you’re specifically asked to do, you’ll get a C, for average performance. Here’s how I would describe what I’m looking for in the newsroom, and how that generally translates into grades (recognizing that no one fits every criteria for every grade range, of course). This applies specifically to the 60 percent of your grade that is based on newsroom performance.

If you earn an A …

You understand and work to carry out the philosophy of the community outreach team. You continually question, challenge and assess our strategies. Around the newsroom, you evangelize for the community and the audience. Your work makes an impact in the newsroom and on the community. You routinely suggest new ideas and strategies. Your work, communication and attitude are thoroughly professional, and you consistently follow through to everyone’s satisfaction. You work well as part of a team. You have a sense of urgency and are a solid journalist. You seek feedback and adjust your work based on what you hear. Your work improves each week. If another editor called me looking for an employee, you would be a strong candidate.

If you earn a B …

You mostly seem to understand and work to carry out the philosophy of the community outreach team. You sometimes contribute by questioning and challenging our strategies, and you understand the basics of assessment. With a few projects, you have made a real impact on the newsroom or the community. You rely on being given assignments more than some students. You generally work well as part of a team. You might sometimes need to be reminded to follow through on tasks, and you might not always remember to communicate with your colleagues. Your work has on occasion included errors or a lack of journalistic urgency. When you have remembered to seek feedback, you have been generally quite responsive to it. Your work improves, though not as quickly as it could. If another editor called me looking for an employee, I would say you had great potential but would likely need some nurturing.

If you earn a C …

You go through the motions on the community outreach team but do not seem to fully understand its philosophy. You carry out tasks as assigned but do not generally take them beyond the basics. Overall, it’s hard to see the impact of your work, and you do not often provide adequate assessment of your work. You often need to be reminded to follow through, and you sometimes miss deadlines. Your work is sometimes satisfactory and sometimes contains errors. You sometimes seem to lack journalistic urgency. You don’t actively seek feedback on your work. Your work has not shown significant improvement. If another editor called me looking for an employee, I would not be able to recommend you.

If you earn below a C …

You have continually been unreliable and unprofessional, or have compromised the integrity of the team or the Missourian through your work or your behavior.

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