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Rubrics for Assessing Students' Technical Writing Skills

Instructor: Karen Stump
Scope: Introduction to Chemical Analysis, Chemistry Department, MCS:
Assessment Tool: Rubrics for Assessing Students' Technical Writing Skills

Motivation:

When grading lab reports in Introduction to Chemical Analysis, we found that students differed widely in their ability to write technical reports, making grading very difficult and time consuming. Students were also unclear about how their reports were graded.

Goal:

Our goal was to ensure that all students in the course learn how to structure, and clearly write a technical, scientific report. A second goal was to create clarity and parity in lab report grading.

Methods/Tools:

The instructors developed writing rubrics for lab reports. The rubrics clearly articulate the required structure and content for the report as well as the criteria on which the reports are graded. These rubrics address both presentation criteria, such as the cover page, grammatical and paragraph usage and the use of citations, as well as content, such as objective of the experiment, experiment results, standardization, conclusion, and error analysis.

Implementation:

The grading rubric is given to the students in advance of the due date so that they are clear about the criteria. Each lab report is scored based on the fulfillment, partial fulfillment, or absence of the criteria articulated on the writing rubric.

Impact/Results:

Students are clearly aware of the performance criteria and so there is less ambiguity in what they are required to do and less confrontation over their earned grade. Since using the rubrics the requests for re-grading have gone down dramatically and the variability among course graders has been substantially reduced.  Furthermore, the scoring of lab reports has become less time consuming.

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