When giving feedback on student writing, our comments inevitably reflect our priorities and expectations about the assignment. In other words, we're using a rubric to choose which elements (e.g., thesis, analysis, style, etc.) receive more or less feedback and what counts as a "good thesis" or a "less good thesis." When we read a student’s essay, that is, we always have a rubric. The question is how consciously we’re applying it, whether we’re transparent with students about what it is, whether it’s aligned with what students are learning in our course, and whether we’re applying it consistently.
- Being conscious of your rubric ideally means having one written out, with explicit criteria and concrete features that describe more/less successful versions of each criterion. If you don't have a rubric written out, you can use the assignment prompt decoder for TFs & TAs to determine which elements and criteria should be the focus of your rubric.
- Being transparent with students about your rubric means sharing it with them ahead of time and making sure they understand it. The assignment prompt decoder for students is designed to facilitate this discussion between students and instructors.
- Aligning your rubric with your course means articulating the relationship between “this” assignment and the ones that scaffold up and build from it, which ideally involves giving students the chance to practice different elements of the assignment and get formative feedback before they’re asked to submit material that will be graded. For more ideas and advice on how this looks, see the "Formative Assignments" page in this section.
- Applying your rubric consistently means using a stable vocabulary when making your comments and keeping your feedback focused on the criteria in your rubric.
So what does all of this look like in practice?