Why Grading Rubrics are Important

Whenever students receive a grade on a writing assignment it should be informative. Receiving informative feedback helps students understand their strengths and weaknesses, so that they can focus on improving their writing abilities. Using an analytical grading rubric can provide the information that student need to advance their writing. Writing an essay-length paper requires the integration of numerous sub-skills and knowledge sources, such as

    • knowledge about the topic,
    • the ability to develop a specific or critical perspective,
    • lexical and grammatical knowledge pertaining to the topic and the genre of writing,
    • knowledge about effective organization of the text,
    • the skill to proofread and fix mechanics, to just name a few.

Since the development of  second language writing skills is a long-term process, students should have the opportunity to log their progress, not only by being aware of the various sub-skills of writing but also by receiving feedback about the individual sub-skills.

Analytic rubrics (examples) as compared to holistic rubrics allow the weighting of aspects. Each writing aspect (e.g., content, organization, language, mechanics) can be worth a different percentage of the total essay grade.

In contrast, a holistic scoring rubric (example) is more general but it is not as informative for students as an analytic scoring rubric.

Further issues: Theoretical constructs of assessing writing skills.

Ferris & Hedgecock (2014) summarize several constructs one needs to be mindful of when assessing student writing:

  • Reliability: Consistency with which the writing sample is assigned the same score by different raters (a clear grading rubric is essential);
  • Test reliability: Do students have the knowledge base for content, format, length of the assignment? Do they understand the directions?
  • Validity: does grading/rubric truly measure what it claims to measure?
  • Face validity: do teacher and students perceive the rubric to measure what it claims to measure?

Ferris, D. R., & Hedgcock, J.S. (2014). Teaching L2 Composition. Purpose, Process, and Practice. New York: Routledge.