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Project Strong Start: Classroom Strategies

Strategies to facilitate the success of first-generation college students.

Discuss Expectations

Be clear about and encourage discussion of expectations.


Be clear about and encourage discussion of expectations with rubrics.

Using rubrics to assess student work is one means of promoting equity in grading and clearly communicating expectations to students. Rubrics can also provide specific information to support referrals to tutoring services and the Writing Center.

Here is an example of a grading rubric from a 100-level course: 


undefinedNow, watch the following video to learn how to utilize rubrics when grading (i.e. inline grading):

Be clear about and encourage discussion of expectations by discussing rubrics and grading standards.

Students may need nudging to appreciate the value of rubrics for growth and improvement. Making the associated rubric available with the assignment and explicitly directing students to review the rubric may be helpful in this regard.

Other tips include:

  1. Create a discussion board forum for Q & A about grading rubrics
  2. Ask students to use the rubric as a final check before submitting an assignment
  3. Use the language of the grading rubric in writing feedback on assignments.

This is an example of an adjunct-created video to help students understand the course discussion board rubric and its purpose and function:

Be clear about and encourage discussion of expectations by providing examples of work that meets and does not meet expectations.

Here is an example of the former: 


1. Plan ahead. Read the discussion board assignments for the week before you do the reading. Print the discussion board assignments and have them handy as you read. Take notes on the reading as it pertains to the discussion assignments.  

2. Proofread. Do not rely on a spelling and grammar checking program. Such a program will catch most but not all errors.  

3. Count. Make sure you are submitting the appropriate number of words.  

4. Double-check. Before you submit your post, review the discussion question and make certain you’ve fully addressed it.  

5. Study the example below.  

An “A” Discussion Board Post  

DISCUSSION BOARD PROMPT: Evaluate the business case argument that hiring diverse employees will enable organizations to capitalize on diverse markets. Post approximately 100 words.  

STUDENT'S RESPONSE: One of the most frequently made business case arguments is that hiring diverse employees will allow organizations to capitalize on diverse markets. This is an intuitively appealing argument; however, it is thus far unsubstantiated. The claim rests on the faulty assumption that customers want to be served by those who resemble themselves. Evidence to support this assumption is lacking. The Diversity Research Network, for example, finds no consistent evidence that customers care whether the salespeople who serve them are of the same race or gender (2009, p. 3). Tulin (2010) similarly concludes that there is no clear proof diversity leads to better market performance.  

What makes this an “A” post?  

  • Meets word count requirement (the post is 104 words in length) 

  • Fully address the discussion prompt 

  • Is free of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, word usage, and citation style 

  • Provides support for claim 

  • Is clear and concise; does not digress from topic 

Be clear about and encourage discussion of expectations by creating opportunities to dialogue with students about expectations.

Rubrics can be used to structure conversations with students and promote a growth mindset. For example, an online instructor might conduct a Zoom conference with a student and make the rubric for recent assignment the centerpiece of the conference. 

Watch the following video to learn how to add the Zoom Meeting Tool Link in your Blackboard course:

Or click the image below to view the Zoom Meeting Tool Link tutorial: