Grading rubrics can be of great benefit to both you and your students. For you, a rubric saves time and decreases subjectivity. Specific criteria are explicitly stated, facilitating the grading process and increasing your objectivity. For students, the use of grading rubrics helps them to meet or exceed expectations, to view the grading process as being fair, and to set goals for future learning.
In order to help your students meet or exceed expectations of the assignment, be sure to discuss the rubric with your students when you assign an essay. It is helpful to show them examples of written pieces that meet and do not meet the expectations. As an added benefit, because the criteria are explicitly stated, the use of the rubric decreases the likelihood that students will argue about the grade they receive. The explicitness of the expectations helps students know exactly why they lost points on the assignment and aids them in setting goals for future improvement.
- Routinely have students score peers essays using the rubric as the assessment tool. This increases their level of awareness of the traits that distinguish successful essays from those that fail to meet the criteria. Have peer editors use the Reviewers Comments section to add any praise, constructive criticism, or questions.
- Alter some expectations or add additional traits on the rubric as needed. Students needs may necessitate making more rigorous criteria for advanced learners or less stringent guidelines for younger or special needs students. Furthermore, the content area for which the essay is written may require some alterations to the rubric. In social studies, for example, an essay about geographical landforms and their effect on the culture of a region might necessitate additional criteria about the use of specific terminology.
- After you and your students have used the rubric, have them work in groups to make suggested alterations to the rubric to more precisely match their needs or the parameters of a particular writing assignment.
The sound of assessing student essays a second time can seem quite daunting. The key to making this resubmission process a success is to enforce that students highlight all changes and/or use track changes. Having a highlighted/tracked copy of the essay will help you assess the effort of revision. The way I do this is I place the two essays (the original and the newly revised copy) side-by-side, and I begin to compare them. I also look at the original rubric and where I deducted points. If I see the student lost points for the thesis statement, I expect to see a newly revised thesis statement, and it should be highlighted. If the student lost points for quality of textual evidence in a given paragraph, I expect to see new quotations selected for that paragraph, and they should be highlighted. I'm also checking that the updates to the essay are better than the original version-- they may not still be "perfect," but I expect to see improvement.
If a student has put in the effort to make quality improvements to the essay, then I will grant the student half the points back. If the student has only done about half of the needed revisions and changes, then I will give partial points back. If a student has only edited the essay for a few grammar mistakes and not addressed all aspects of the rubric where points were lost, then I might only give the student one or two points back on the score. This part of the grading process is entirely subjective, but you should have a general idea of the effort they put into the essay by looking over the changes.
After I have reassessed the essay a second time, I write the new score on the original rubric, circle it, and that is the grade that goes into the gradebook. One of the reasons why I like this system is that it holds students accountable for revisions, and we all know that there are some high school students that turn in a first draft of an essay as the final draft. This process holds those students accountable for revisiting the essay in order to practice the targeted writing skills being assessed. But it's also a fair system in that it anchors the grades relative to the work produced, meaning that a student who initially scored a failing grade won't be able to make the same final grade as a student who initially scored an A-- but both students have the chance to raise their scores and raise their overall averages for the class.