Evaluating student writing
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Evaluating Student Writing. Dr. Emily Heady Graduate Writing Center. Things To Remember…. Students do not like to draft and revise. You may want to assign separate due dates for drafts and final papers. Students often think that revising means “proofreading” or “editing.”

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Evaluating Student Writing

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Evaluating student writing

Evaluating Student Writing

Dr. Emily Heady

Graduate Writing Center


Things to remember

Things To Remember…

  • Students do not like to draft and revise. You may want to assign separate due dates for drafts and final papers.

  • Students often think that revising means “proofreading” or “editing.”

  • We need to find ways to encourage our students to think of writing as a multi-stage process.

  • We need to set aside time to do substantive commentary on drafts and final papers.

  • Draft commentary is NOT the same thing as final paper evaluation.

  • Good draft commentary should bring a student into your office to finish the conversation you started.

  • Students respond to your tone—so be as engaging, kind, and helpful as possible.


Principles for draft commentary

Principles for Draft Commentary

  • When possible, DO ask questions instead of making statements.

  • Do NOT proofread your students’ papers.

  • If you make a broad statement (e.g., the organization is poor), DO back it up with specific examples.

  • DO use a balanced combination of margin notes and global comments at the end.

  • DO make sure you don’t tell your students exactly what to say, how to think, or what to write to get an A.

  • Do feel comfortable supplying technical vocabulary, complicating evidence, overlooked sources, or other missing pieces that students simply may not know.


Some comments for salvageable drafts

Some Comments for Salvageable Drafts…

  • “This point is fuzzy. What did you mean exactly?

  • “I got lost halfway down page 2. Can you strengthen your organizational structure so I see how your ideas are flowing?”

  • “Why do you keep using this strange word instead of using the correct technical term?”

  • “You’ve got a lot of evidence for your position, but can you find any sources that disagree?”

  • “I’m surprised you made this point here since you seemed to be setting up something else.”

  • “Someone may be offended by what you say on p. 3 about Asian culture.”

  • “I love the point you make in your conclusion. Could you make that point in the introduction as well? Then I’ll know where your paper is going.”

  • “This is very clear throughout. But I’d love it if you sounded a little more excited by what you have to say—you ought to; the ideas are good!”


Some comments for horrid drafts

Some Comments for Horrid Drafts…

  • “Your idea here doesn’t really seem to fit what we talked about in class. How did you come to it?”

  • “This paper has the potential to be interesting. You generally seem rather unsure about what you mean to say, though. Think about what your main point is, and revise accordingly.”

  • “Did you look at the assignment guidelines before you wrote this?”

  • “I like this point you make on page 3. Can you rearrange the whole paper so that point is in your thesis?”

  • “I know that you’ve been busy and that your paper probably suffered some from this. Can you come in and see me so we can talk through your thoughts?”

  • “Your ideas are good; I’m just not sure they made it to the page. Why don’t you come into my office so we can work on better ways to express your ideas?”


Principles for final draft evaluation

Principles for Final Draft Evaluation

  • DO refer back to the comments you made on the draft.

  • DO dole out both praise and criticism when warranted.

  • Do NOT spend all your time marking grammar errors.

  • DO make as many evaluative statements as you want, but back up words like “good” or “poor” with specific examples or reasons.

  • DO let students know which errors are the most critical.

  • Do NOT work yourself to death critiquing a paper. Try to sum up your impressions in a good end note.

  • DO make sure your grades reflect your rubric and assignment sheet.

  • Do NOT assign a grade without providing students with a justification for the score you choose.

  • Do NOT grade a student down for disagreeing with you.

  • DO tie your comments as closely to your grading rubric as possible.


Some comments for pretty good papers

Some Comments for Pretty Good Papers

  • “Your main idea is excellent. You don’t stick to it forcefully enough throughout, however.”

  • “This paper’s strong structure is generally a plus. Sometimes you insist on making big points in one paragraph, though—and they don’t always fit in just one.”

  • “For future papers, concentrate on getting your word choice and style to match the quality of your ideas.”

  • “This paper is well composed, nicely written, and very clean. However, it lacks the originality that marks truly A-level work.

  • “In the future, I’d like you to concentrate on integrating your sources more smoothly.”

  • “The points are all there, but the balance is off. You spend more time answering opponents than making your own point, which makes you sound very defensive.”

  • “Your topic is great, and this is a nicely composed paper. But you sometimes tend to oversimplify your opponents’ ideas, which in turn harms your own point.”


Some comments for horrid papers

Some Comments for Horrid Papers

  • “I know you’re a bright student based on your comments in class. However, this paper doesn’t show it very well.”

  • “Your paper hits a good groove on page five. Until then, it wanders all over.”

  • “You don’t have a clear thesis, which makes it very hard to defend your point.”

  • “This paper has three possible topics: x, y, and z.”

  • “Your idea is solid; however, the mechanical errors are so severe at points that it’s hard to figure out what you mean to say.”

  • “Where is your outside research?”

  • “Next time, PLEASE come see me before you turn something in.”


A student s opening page

A Student’s Opening Page

  • The changing roles and claims of the papacy during the time of the split of the religious scene were that it was time for a change. The reason for this reforming was due to change and transition. Many leaders were forcing the reforming of religion and that it was time for a change. This split of religions was vividly shown during this time period. Erasmus clearly showed his reforming movement of the church and claimed power during the time period. He showed the "balance" of the late medieval religion could be challenged. He was able to challenge it through his reforming of the church. His reforming of the church made it possible for the change and challenge of the church. Through it all, the split of the religious scene was a great impact on Europe. Church and religion was one thing that everyone had and could have. The splitting and eventual reform made a large mark in history.


A final draft s first paragraph

A Final Draft’s First Paragraph

  • Lockhart's Spanish Peru and Hemming's The Conquest of the Incas offer very different views of Peru during the period in which they overlap, 1532-1560. The varying views are in part due to the different topics and sources the authors choose to focus on. Hemming concentrates on "contacts" between the Spaniards and Indians. He never offers a clear thesis, but he does state that the book offers "an opportunity to refute some misconceptions and to reconstruct gaps in the chroniclers' narratives" (17). Hemming points out these misconceptions and gaps as he takes the reader through Peru, offering vivid descriptions - gleaned primarily from chronicles and official manuscripts - of Spanish-Indian interactions. Lockhart, on the other hand, does have a clear thesis. He limits his study to the Spanish society that evolved around the early Peruvian cities, and argues that "an essentially intact, complete Spanish society was transferred to Peru in the conquest and civil war period" (251). His ground-breaking study is based primarily on notarial records, and he expresses distrust of the "over-used," "one-sided," and "predictable" official reports (152) as well as the often fanciful chronicles (264).


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