Explicit statements of your grading criteria can be very useful. A writing rubric that specifies the categories of assessment – and, perhaps, defines levels of success in each category – can help students identify their strengths and weakness. Instead of assessing a paper holistically, you can use a rubric to focus on particular writing skills – pointing out, for example, that the evidence in a paper is compelling but that the organization is confusing and detracts from its overall success. This approach has the added advantage of demystifying the grading process for students.
The SAGES Writing Rubric (available on our Key Documents page) is available in both PDF and MS Word formats. This rubric has been designed to align writing expectations with the SAGES Mission & Student Learning Objectives. It will be used in the annual SAGES Portfolio Review, and it can be used and/or adapted for individual classroom assignment use.
Rubrics may be designed specifically for each assignment (in which case it is very helpful to provide them along with the assignment sheet so students know from the outset how their work will be evaluated) or for the entire course. If you are using a standard rubric, consider making it a part of your peer or self-evaluation processes with students. The more students work with the criteria you have established, the clearer they will be about your expectations.
For a practical overview (with examples), please see:
Bean, John C. “Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria.” Chapter 14 in his Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integerating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. Second Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. 267-289.