Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Instructor: Karen Stump
Course: 09-221 Lab I Introduction to Chemical Analysis,
Chemistry Department, Mellon College of Science
Assessment: Rubrics for Assessing Students' Technical Writing Skills


When grading lab reports for previous versions of this course, we found that students differed widely in their ability to write technical reports. For instructors, grading was both difficult and time-consuming. For students, the grading criteria were unclear. Our goals were to ensure that the students learn how to clearly structure and write a technical report and to create clarity and parity in grading.


The course instructors developed rubrics for the lab reports. These rubrics articulate the criteria on which the reports are graded, such as structure, content, and citations. Students receive the rubric before the lab report is due so that they know what the assignment expectations are. Each lab report’s score is based on the fulfillment, partial fulfillment, or absence of the criteria articulated on the rubric.


Students are aware of the criteria on the rubric, which leads to less ambiguity about what they are expected to do and dramatically fewer requests for re-grading. Graders for the course show less variability and report that grading has become less time-consuming.



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