Monday, August 27, 2012

Rubrics Revisited

As I’ve listened to faculty across the University talk about how they evaluate student writing, I’ve been increasingly interested in the many different ways we arrive at value judgments, particularly in the difference between analytical and holistic scoring guides.
Typically, an analytical scoring guide (or rubric) includes a list of features the finished product must include (e.g. “introduction that defines the problem” or “references to at least two articles from peer-reviewed journals”) and assigns a point value to each one. A paper’s grade is then determined by adding the points awarded to each feature. By contrast, a holistic scoring guide describes the target qualities of the finished product collectively, often in a form like this: “An A paper will . . .” “A B paper will . . .”

How can students know what we don't tell them?

             The New York Times recently ran a series of articles on anosognosia and the troubling implications of the things we don’t even know enough to know we don’t know. The whole series was worth a read, but it seems to me to have a special relevance to the perennial question of how to get students to care more about their writing and to take more responsibility for improving their writing skills. 
             As faculty, we’re very much aware that the time and money students invest in a college education will do nothing for them if they leave college without the advanced literacy skills they need in order to put their degrees to work.  And we’ve done a  good job of communicating this to students.  If you ask students if writing will be important for their future success, most of them will say yes.  And often they’re able to back that up with pretty convincing reasons why.

Falling literacy levels and rising student loan debt

As you plan for fall semester, you might want to give some thought to the nature of our incoming students.
This year’s PSU students share the same disadvantages as their peers all over the country: they read less than students did 20 years ago, and their reading skills are weaker; they have less writing experience than high school graduates of 20 years ago, and because they read less, their writing is less competent; they have had less practice in critical thinking, and they are less able to follow a connected chain of reasoning; their attention span is shorter than it was even five years ago, and they have more difficulty understanding and following directions.