Evaluating Student Writing
Cross-posted from the Digital Union blog.
A few weeks ago I facilitated a workshop on teaching with portfolios for Learning Technology. As much as we talk about the technology supporting e-portfolios, it’s good to step back and take stock of the pedagogical approaches behind them.
How can I help students take better advantage of peer assessment?
Many instructors are familiar with peer assessment--and the frustration with students who don’t offer substantive feedback during the process or even grasp requisite writing standards. To maximize the benefits from peer assessment, take a few minutes to teach students how to offer constructive feedback to each other. It can be a great way for students to reflect on and develop their writing, discuss course content and form a classroom learning community. It can produce multiple points of critique and lighten your assessment workload--all this for a relatively small investment of time.
How can I respond to and grade student writing at the end of the quarter without getting overwhelmed? End-of-the-quarter grading can be a difficult task after putting so much energy into teaching. It's easy to feel overwhelmed with a pile of papers to grade that need a quick turn around, especially when you have a number of students graduating. Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to make grading less time consuming that can be instigated as you wrap up your class, during finals week, and as you plan for next quarter of teaching. Check out the following tips to learn more about how you can make your end-of-the-quarter grading process more efficient.
Question: How might I fix the kinks in my writing assignments this quarter? What has worked for my colleagues?
Activity Idea: Take some time at the end of this quarter to think about what writing assignments worked well and reflect on some of the challenges you faced teaching writing. Your colleague in the office down the hall might be your best resource for this, and you might be hers as well. In our work in WAC, we have the privilege of talking to Ohio State's most creative and resourceful teachers every day. For this tip email, we've collected a few approaches from three instructors we've worked with this quarter that have really inspired us:
How can I find out more about what exactly my students are learning throughout the quarter?
Evaluating student responses to formal assignments alone only tells us so much about what students are learning, and usually tells us very little about how they are learning. Informal, reflective writing can give you a window into student learning: how they go about tackling a problem or question, what challenges they face in an assignment, and what about their work sparks their personal interests and passions.
How can we use end-of-the-quarter grading to help our students continue the learning process even after they've left our classrooms?
We often talk about grading solely as a form of evaluation and judgment without considering the various ways it can help students learn. As we near the end of the quarter, consider using grading as a tool to increase students' critical awareness of their own learning process.
Do you have difficulty explaining to a student why s/he earned a particular grade? Are you frustrated by what seems to be a subjective and time-consuming process? How can you grade more efficiently and fairly?
Grading student writing can be a challenging process that may initially appear subjective. However, there are certain strategies that you can implement to make grading writing a more objective and transparent process for both you and your students.
As we move toward the end of the quarter, how can we use writing to assess student learning this quarter and help us plan for next quarter's teaching?
Having students reflect on course materials and course activities can provide you with a picture of how students are learning as well as let you know if there are aspects of your course that might need fine-tuning. It can also help students to synthesize the work they've done over the quarter.
I had the WAC team read two articles by Michael Carter. The first is an article describing the assessment process Carter oversees at North Carolina State University, "A Process for Establishing Outcomes-Based Assessment Plans for Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines," Language and Learning Across the Disciplines
6 (2003): 4-29 [available online
Chris Manion and I worked with Mechanical Engineering lab TAs and their coordinator Kimberly Clavin to discuss the criteria for grading technical writing on student lab reports. Our approach, overall, was to help the TAs articulate their expectations for lab writing in as concrete a way as possible. We hoped to give them an opportunity to discuss different good methods while they were grading lab reports.