Evaluating writing represents a most challenging task. Beginning with a carefully designed assignment can help, and so can clearly defined expectations. Below are some guidelines to help develop evaluation criteria.
Design: Make criteria explicit and match them with assignment goals.
- Use the language of the course and the writing assignment's stated purpose to frame the criteria.
- Use only a few trait areas, such as "Content, Reasoning, Organization, Style, and Correctness." See "Disciplinary-Based Writing Rubric" for sample categories/criteria.
- Weight the criteria to indicate different course priorities as appropriate.
(Unless the class is a writing course, content, reasoning, and organization typically should be weighted more than correctness.)
Process: Use criteria to assess the writing in process.
- Whenever possible, use samples of student papers (ranging from successful to unsuccessful) to illustrate the criteria, asking students to discern them from the models.
- Create criteria checklists for students to use in doing self-assessments.
- Use these same criteria to give your response to the writing in process.
- Have writers submit their self-assessment checklists and use them to give your feedback. (Use their language where possible and indicate places of disagreement with a contrasting mark.)
Product: Use criteria to assess the final writing product.
- Have writers submit reflective self-assessments with their final products. These reflective commentaries might take the form of a cover memo, criteria checklist, or reflective essay attached to the final product. (Be sure they stick to the same criteria in doing these final self-assessments.)
- When evaluating the final work, use the same criteria you have worked with in process.
- Resist the temptation to write extensive comments on final work; instead, just write one brief comment overviewing the writing's greatest strength and need.