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Assessing Writing?. WRAD. What we need…might just be. A Few Good Rubrics. After all, rubrics should help us define proficiency and some measure of success…. Rubrics do have a long tradition…. The word itself is related to--and derives from—a root meaning ‘ red . ’ As early as

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Rubrics do have a long tradition…

The word itself is related to--and derives

from—a root meaning ‘red.’ As early as

1375, notes the OED, the word was used to

refer to “ a direction for the conduct of a divine

service, inserted in liturgical books and properly

printed in red.” Only later was the word also used to refer

to chapter or section headings--also printed in red, and

was extended as well to denote categories (“We’ll put this under the rubric

of ‘necessary evils’.”). Our current use--which itself most likely derives from a

mix of an extension of the first meaning: “an authoritative rule or direction”with

the other two.



First, the less good news

Effective rubrics are not “general” ones:

their effectiveness—their assessment value—is directly related to how

closely aligned they are

with the “product” of a particular assignment and goals of that assignment.

We must craft them ourselves—taking advantage of guidelines, but making them “fit” what we’re doing


Questions About Rubrics and Writing

A small—preliminary—set of questions was sent to a few faculty:

Do you use a rubric in any of the writing assignments that you give?

What aspects of assignments--the prompts themselves--do you feel are most crucial for students to use, and are the most important to make explicit for them?

What aspects of writing assessment do you think we should collectively be focusing on?


Some Responses: What Do Faculty Think?

A number of faculty do not use rubrics with students, but give them instructions regarding what the expectations are. These could be built into rubrics… Those who do use rubrics share them with students with the initial assignment.

Regardless of their use of a rubric or scoring guide, the faculty who responded each commented on the importance of specificity in an assignment—posing a focused question for the students, making certain they (can) read and understand it—some want students to restate the question in the essay.

Should questions be the students’ own, responding faculty want them to make the questions clear, and to be able to build thesis statements and discussion (including argument) around them.

Faculty were uniformly concerned with organization, paragraph structure, and many noted sentence structure and vocabulary (both disciplinary and more general use) as critical issues as well.


Thinking Through and Beyond the Essay or Paper

“Plagiarism” and academic integrity were both mentioned in response to the question about what aspects of writing assessment we should be focusing on. Ian Barnard (English, University Writing Council), who has done work in this area, made note of this ongoing project, which seems an excellent resource: , Rebecca Moore Howard

At least two faculty members among those who responded used rubrics for work on Moodle. This work included forum responses regarding class discussions, peer reviews of work posted on Moodle, and critical/analytical reading summaries. Students have written guides to the expectations for these distinct assignments, and they write “to” them.


That’s all betternews

And there’s more


There are helpful resources

The chapter (and references) from John Bean’s Engaging Ideas, 2nd edition

A list of sites on the next two slides, with discipline specific guides to rubric construction—and explanations of the general types:

analytical and holistic (and everything in-between)

c. One example—part of our landscape—of the AAC&U “LEAP” Value Rubrics

addresses “Written Communication” from the point of view of graduation

expectations (on pp. 29-30 of the LEAP Value Rubric piece).

d. The chance for discussion about discipline and assignment-specific rubric


The possibility of—if there’s interest—workshops for developing rubrics—

an enterprise which, in turn, would have us look carefully at the

internal construction of our assignments, and the accessibility (explicitness?) of

their goals and objectives.


URLS helpful to RUBRICS

Two general observations—

1. What is the purpose of the rubric—to evaluate an assignment holistically or to provide an analysis of how students’ work addresses delineated criteria. Answers to this question will result in a holistic rubric or an analytical one. Those are two points at either ends of a spectrum, so it is likely that as you look at examples of rubrics you will see not only examples of those two categories, but also a range of hybrids—as our own UDWPE scoring guide is:

2. The most useful rubrics are assignment specific and reflect the goals that we have for that assignment. That means that as we design an assignment and prepare it for students, its companion rubric should be developing along with it.

3. These are what I thought were helpful sites; they provide direction and insight—as well as some useful rubric examples

University of Wisconsin: “Learn More: ‘Rubrics’”



Colorado State University (also the home of the WAC clearinghouse)

“What makes a good rubric?”

George Mason Departmental Rubrics

Ohio State University: Developing Rubrics

University of Baltimore—Business centered

Some helpful overviews from Minnesota State University

This site, from SDSU, provides not only justification, but an “exercise” providing for rubric construction (John Bean does this, as well, in his chapter)