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Rubrics for Assessing Student's Writing

Name: Ting Chang
Scope: Course: Critical Histories of Art, Center for Arts and Society, CFA
Assessment Tools:
Rubrics for Assessing Student's Writing – Reflection Writing Rubric; Research Project Writing Rubric


What factors/data/circumstances initiated the action?

The instructor had previously taught a similar class in a Social Science and Humanities environment and made some changes to the course to better fit the goals and context of the College of Fine Arts, where this is a required course. Despite changes some key challenges kept coming up. The key challenge was that very few of the CFA students were used to the extensive reading and writing that was required in the course. Students also began to ask for more clarity around the expectations for writing assignments. An internal advisory committee suggested the development of writing rubrics to address this problem.


What did you hope to learn from the assessment?

The main goal was to clarify my expectations of student performance and to clarify the requirements & scoring criteria for written assignments in the course.


How was the data collected?

Two writing rubrics were developed. One rubric was used for the series of reflection papers.  A separate rubric was created for the final research paper.


How was the assessment activity carried out?

Who were the participants?

All students enrolled in 61-100.

When was/will the data be collected? 

The reflection papers were graded throughout the course and the final research project was at the end of the semester. When students were given the rubrics at the beginning of the course and before each assignment.

What is the current status:

The current status is ongoing. The rubrics will continue to be revised and used in the course. What was the data, how was it analyzed/interpreted? TAs use the rubrics to guide their grading, and they return the written assignments with the rubric sheets marked and circled accordingly.


How is the data being used?

The rubrics have helped clarify the expectations for the written assignments. Further, the writing rubrics have made grading easier and more uniform across the different TAs.

However, while the rubric was supposed to simplify and clarify the writing process, the use of terms in the rubrics that the students didn't entirely understand actually made the process more confusing for them. Based on this feedback, I began to use the same terms in lectures and in speaking (eg. “reliable academic sources”) that were used in the rubric so that students could begin to understand what the words meant in the context of the class. I also used student feedback on ambiguous terms to revise the rubric to make it clearer.


The biggest challenge with developing the rubrics was making sure that the correct terms were used in the descriptions. To get this right is an iterative process, using feedback from the students and their work.

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