“no essay received less than 5 different grades” I'm not really surprised by the varied results of the 53-teacher experiment. At first it seems shocking, but when I stopped and really thought about what I was reading, it made a lot of sense. Especially when the article went on to say that each subgroup that formed had similar criterion than others. From experience, I can say that each field of study has its own rules that generally vary to a noticeable degree when it comes to writing standards (you could say each one has a characteristic style of writing). So the results really don’t surprise me, and even though it’s interesting and does prove the point that there isn’t a standard, it also seems a tiny bit biased.
It’s funny for me to think of a grading criterion that didn’tinvolve a rubric. I guess that just shows how standardized they’ve become. Or maybe how linear my experiences with them are? I say this because I never thought of there being “different” rubric styles. I just assumed they were all the same.
Also, I think the use of “flavor” to seriously describe voice is absolutely hysterical (in a good way).
I’m inclined to disagree with the idea that writing can’t be broken down into separate parts. Of course they can. We all know that one student—maybe we’ve even been that one student—who keeps making the same mistake over and over, yet the rest of the paper is fine (more or less). It is possible to excel in one area and lack in another. Personally, I’m good at analysis, but have a hard time organizing my thoughts. I often jump from subject to subject with little or no transition or reasoning. To me, it makes sense, but it doesn’t to others. So I don’t believe it’s impossible to separate the components. Writing involves a lot of working parts; and for some students, it’s really hard to get all the parts to work together. A grading guide that breaks things down into smaller, more manageable parts is, I would think, less intimidating than a holistic approach, where everything counts equally—where your flaws might end up cancelling out your strengths.
I felt 14.2 was the most helpful of the examples. I’ve noticed that in an attempt to be universal, rubrics often use vague language (the paper isn’t “balanced” enough, or it was “thin” in some areas).
“universally agreed-on standards for good writing” a valid point. But I do believe that there are certain qualities that are generally found within “good” writing. Sentence structure is a priority—not necessarily because it has to be correct, but because it has to work within the piece itself. Ideas and thoughts are also priorities. As well as organization. These are all aspects of good writing that rubrics attempt to assess. The problem here is the interpretation of the word “good”. I would say critics of the rubric are assuming that “good” is synonymous with “traditional”, “orthodox” or “academic” writing. Saying a piece is good doesn’t automatically mean that it is the cookie-cutter paper we expect it to be. “Good” writing, then, has become stigmatized and is expected to fit into a very specific mold. However, rubrics are vague enough that a paper can be graded as having good ideas and sentence structure, without it stereotypically good.
“oversimplifies…valued by real readers” also a good point, although I disagree that a rubric inherently implies these things.
I disagree with the comment examples given. A reader is not supposed to “work hard” to fill in gaps of information. I was never given that luxury. I was always told to tell my reader everything they need to know, and to assume they’ll never read what I’m telling them about. A reader can (and should) work hard to analyze or interpret a piece, but not to fill in the gaps. And if the organization as bad enough to drop the paper a whole letter grade, then I get the impression that it was moderately disorganized and disrupted the reading process noticeably. It’s good that the “teacher” pointed out that the ideas were “superb,” because that’s important. But organization is important too. And I think comment 2 belittles that importance, and almost coddles the writer. Comment 2 sugar coats what comment 1 is saying, and that’s well and good, but comment 2 also doesn’t say that the disorganization is why points were lost. To me, it sounds like comment 2 is saying “this was great and the readers will have to adapt to you and keep doing things like this. Also, you earned a B even though I said your work was superb.” It sounds contradictory, in my opinion. My response to this would be “if my work was superb, and the organization wasn’t that big of a deal, why did I only get a B?” Losing readers isn't really on the forefront of a student's mind, let's be realistic here. A student cares about points, and they won't stop caring about points until they have the skills to know they can break the rules and still earn the points. It is only at that point that the writer will worry about losing their readers.
And obviously there won't be a single rubric for every field of study that exists. It's not possible because each field uses writing to achieve something different. Writing is a tool of communication. Different fields communicate different messages.
If you’re going to question grading scales, what’s stopping you from questioning letter grades? They’re the same thing, except number scales show you exactly where your work fell within the guidelines, whereas with the letter system, you have a wide ad vague estimation: “I got a B, so I must have done better than 79, but worse than 90…”
I’m not really sure what to make of his grading process. It doesn’t seem like something I can agree with. I like that he tries to be fair while keeping in touch with his technical side, but I don’t really agree with separating them in the way he does. If the technical issues are bad enough to disrupt the reading process, then the paper needs serious revision. The ideas may be good, but if the delivery is hard to understand, then the quality of the ideas are lost. I think a rubric should be used to assess the technical stuff and a teacher’s comments should be used to discuss the paper holistically. That’s how I assess papers, at least. We’ve said that technicality isn’t everything, but we can’t say that it doesn’t contribute to the holistic quality of the paper. It’s not the most important thing, but it is still important (to a certain degree).
Overall, I felt this piece was interesting and easy to read. Even if I disagreed with some of the things stated in it—especially most of the stuff at the end—I felt it provoked a lot of insight and reflection on my part; which is nice because I didn’t know I even had feelings about rubrics (considering I usually don’t read them). But it also revealed a bit about my own grading beliefs. Although I probably sound overly critical in my reflections, I don’t believe I am as “hard” a grader as I (perceive myself to) come across as. I think grading is hard no matter what, and it doesn’t get easier, and that a rubric should, ultimately, be a tool to help you reach a grade with, not an all-determining, all-knowing checklist we rely solely on.