Mayo's Clinics

Nov 22, 2017, 6:37
Rubrics for Evaluating Writing
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Rubrics for Evaluating Writing

Matching specific grading rubrics and a student’s writing performance improves the grading process.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

Last month, the focus on evaluating writing pointed out a range of strategies to help you remain objective when assessing papers. This month, we will talk about using rubrics – detailed explanations of grading criteria – to help with the process of grading.

Reasons for Rubrics
Rubrics change the dynamics of the assessment process since students have access to the criteria you will use in evaluating their performance. Simply listing the criteria for evaluation provides a major improvement over old models of grading. Assigning points or letter grades for the extent to which the criteria are met gives students even more information. It helps them know what is important in the assignment and assists them in structuring their efforts, thereby improving their writing.

Using rubrics – if well written – can also make the task of grading much easier since you examine the performance – the essay or other writing assignment – and match it with the criteria listed and the level of performance of that criteria. In addition, being clear about the criteria you use in grading often – if not always – decreases complaints and negations about grades. Since I have been using rubrics in my syllabi, I have rarely received a complaint about a grade.

Last month, I listed some criteria in the form of questions. Examples of criteria to use in evaluating writing – in a format different from a rubric – include:

  • To what extent was the paper thorough in its coverage of the topic?
  • To what extent was the paper analytical, as opposed to just descriptive?
  • To what extent did the paper offer evidence for its conclusions?
  • To what extent was the logic faulty or clear?
  • How insightful was the analysis?
  • How organized was the paper?
  • How focused was the paper?
  • How logical was the argument?
  • How many spelling and grammatical errors did the paper contain?

Structure of Rubrics
In rubrics, each of the criteria is explained in more detail to show a student – and yourself – what level of performance on that criteria matches what grade. Here is a sample set of rubrics for an essay paper:

Superior:

A

Shows strong understanding of concepts, principles, and practices; effectively applies them to industry situations without error; draws many insightful conclusions based on analysis; excellent use of evidence

Excellent:

A -

Shows strong understanding of concepts, principles, and practices; effectively applies them to industry situations with rare or minor errors; draws several insightful conclusions based on analysis; excellent use of evidence

Very Good:

B +

Shows good understanding of concepts, principles and practices; adequately applies them to industry situations with occasional minor errors; draws insightful conclusions based on analysis; very good use of evidence

Good:

B

Shows basic understanding of concepts, principles, and practices; adequately applies them to industry situations with frequent minor errors; draws some conclusions based on analysis; good use of evidence

Meets Standards:

B -

Shows limited understanding of concepts, principles, and practices; makes frequent errors applying them to industry situations; draws conclusions based on observation and not based on analysis; adequate use of evidence
Requires moderate Improvement: C Shows consistent misunderstanding of concepts, principles, and practices; makes frequent minor and major errors applying them to industry situations; draws incorrect conclusions; poor use of evidence
Requires significant improvement: C - Shows misunderstanding of concepts, principles, and practices; makes consistent errors; draws many erroneous or incorrect conclusions; very poor use of evidence
Fail: F Shows no understanding of concepts, principles, and practices; makes consistent major errors in applying them to industry situations; draws no conclusions; very poor use of evidence

Try creating some rubrics for your courses and see what a difference they make. Don’t worry if the first versions are not perfect; you will learn how to improve them over time. If you share them with colleagues, they will often make suggestions for improvement. In addition, students will ask you questions about the rubrics which help you make them clearer. If the ones listed above are useful, feel free to copy and change them. Since I wrote them, there are no copyright problems.

Summary
Next month, we will shift focus to discuss aspects of professional development. If you have suggestions for other topics or teaching practices you want to share, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will include them in future Mayo Clinics.


Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, is retired as a clinical professor of hotel and tourism management at New York University. As principal of Mayo Consulting Services, he continues to teach around the globe and is a regular presenter at CAFÉ events nationwide. 

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