Grading rubrics and giving feedback on writing
Many faculty grade writing intuitively. What exactly is a “clear and concise statement” or a detailed paragraph?
Faculty know because they read student writing – a lot of student writing – and have developed an intuitive sense of what works.
We have compiled suggestions for Feedback, Grading, Rubrics, and Additional Resources that you can use in your class to save you time and create effective feedback for your students.
Feedback Accordion Open
Grading student writing has two main purposes:
- Formative feedback: encourages students to improve their writing for the next assignment
- Summative feedback: justifies a grade
Ideally, all writing feedback has formative and summative components. When possible, provide formative feedback in early stages of drafts. For final work that cannot be submitted again, summative feedback is sufficient.
Some useful forms of formative feedback include:
- Questions that stimulate further thought
- Brief summaries of what the reader got from the paper
- Descriptions of difficulties the reader encountered
- Constructive feedback that show possibilities for the next step
- Specific feedback (unclear word choice instead of awkward)
Faculty are encouraged to remind their students that formative feedback is an opportunity to gain insight into a diverse set of expectations instead of reducing feedback to criticism and remediation. Formative feedback is especially useful when commenting during the writing process.
Comments are sometimes questions, statements, or a brief discussion addressing students’ ideas. Commenting on every error is no longer feedback to work with but a tally of faults. Before providing feedback, ask yourself:
- Are students presenting their understanding of new concepts?
- Are students defending one side of an argument?
- Are they providing a larger context for their research?
General Strategies for Feedback:
- Use endnotes on a student’s paper.
- Develop common commenting forms.
- Ask the student to come to a F2S Discussion.
- Use a rubric, like AACU’s Written Communication Value Rubric.
Grading Accordion Closed
- Analytical Grading: Most commonly used with numerical weights and a rubric that satisfies disciplinary conventions and expectations. Itemized grading is another way of describing this approach.
- Holistic Grading: Often with a rubric in hand and read the document as a whole, not in parts. Client grading is another way of describing this approach.
If you teach a junior-level writing intensive course, then analytical grading is your best approach because it is aligned with teaching the writing process. Holistic grading is often used for final products and for courses where the cap is large, as well as for smaller writing exercises (1-2 pages of reflections; lab reports; lab-note journals).
Remember that grading is not editing. Grading means that we want to know whether a student can analyze synthesize, or argue specific points in a coherent manner. If we have more questions than answers, we are unsatisfied. The rubric will guide how many points to provide and to deduct as needed.
Evaluating Writing Assignments: Western Michigan University encourage readers to provide students with rubrics that will help them evaluate writing assignments.
Rubrics Accordion Closed
A rubric is a scoring tool or way to calculate performance. Designing a rubric for writing is an opportunity for faculty to explicitly state what components are important for excellent writing, good writing, average writing, and writing that is below average.
Additionally, it provides students with a good sense of the goals and grading criteria, encouraging them to adapt to disciplinary conventions and course expectations. Some faculty solicit feedback from their students on what makes an excellent paper before they establish the scoring rubric.
Grading and performance rubrics: Carngie Mellon University’s resource explains what rubrics are, what the advantages of rubrics are, and also provides some examples of rubrics for paper assignments, projects, oral presentations, and class contributions.
Types of rubrics: DePaul University’s resource discusses analytic, developmental, and holistic rubrics.
Creating rubrics: DePaul University’s Teaching Commons offers instructors an analysis of the differences between analytic and wholistic rubrics, giving step-by-step instructions on how to create each.
Rubrics: George Mason University’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program has collected and posted rubrics for disciplines ranging from the Arts & Humanities to the Social Sciences and the Sciences.