Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2013


n the first day of my graduate course in evaluating student writing, I ask the students to describe their evaluation philosophy. After a few moments of silence, the students, a mix of graduate assistants and full-time K–12 teachers, begin by telling me what they expect from students’ writing. When prodded to focus on their own evaluation, they list writing issues they mark in student papers. Some describe evaluation practices: “I don’t pick up my pen until I’ve read through the paper at least once,” says one teacher. “Why?” I press. Eventually someone will venture a claim like this one: “I want to provide feedback that helps my students become better writers.” “Ok,” I counter, “but what does it mean to you that a student will be a ‘better writer’ and just as importantly, what is your plan for accomplishing that through evaluation?”

On that first day, very few of the teachers are able to articulate in any clear, specific way what it is they are trying to accomplish as they evaluate a student’s paper.