To design the rubric, we start early in the semester with George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," which talks about what makes bad writing. That conversation is followed by a discussion about what makes good writing. As students share their thoughts about the elements of good writing, I write their ideas on the whiteboard. Later, I copy these down.
The next step in this process is giving them a voting sheet. I lay out a spreadsheet of their ideas, along with SAT writing standards for a "6" essay, good writing techniques from "The Cognition of Discovery: Defining a Rhetorical Problem" by Hayes and Flower, and my own two-- addressing the assignment, turning work in on time. Next, I have them label the options 1-5. For every #1, I give two tally marks. For every #2, I give one. Then, I pull the top five to create the rubric. I'm sure there are other ways to do this, but this is what has worked for me best so far.
This semester, I think my students did a great job of choosing criteria. They will be graded on the following (listed in order of priority):
- Effort (addessing the assignment, word count, drafts on time)
- Create understanding for your reader (logical reasoning, good support, analysis)
- Flow (organization and transitions)
- Establishing a relationship with the reader (word choice, tone)
- Formal/conventional features (format, genre, grammar, spelling)
Last semester, the rubric was different. They wanted to be graded by these criteria:
- Followed instructions
- Affected the reader (strongly supported ideas, deep analysis)
- Built a coherent network of ideas (well-organized, clearly stated thoughts)
- Aware of audience (consistent use of tone, word choice, formal/conventional features)
Interestingly enough, though the students in the classes and the dynamics of the classes are completely different, you can see that both classes chose similar goals for their writing. Their objectives are also similarly prioritized.
I think student-lead evaluation is one of the most effective means of teaching writing. Students are asked to assess themselves and also writing in general. They become more conscious of not only what is wrong in their writing, but also what works. Of course, the rubric is just one way of doing this.