Resources > Library

Articles on Evaluating Student Writing

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Elbow, Peter."Taking Time Out from Grading and Evaluating While Working in a Conventional System." Assessing Writing 4.1 (1997): 5-27.

Conventional grading is only one segment of evaluation, yet the practice is so ubiquitous that it is difficult to take time-outs from grading. Elbow offers a variety of suggestions for incorporating non-graded writing into a conventional grading system. While freewriting is one method, contracting for a letter grade encourages students to write better through achieving certain tasks. The instructor's comments help students realize that readers intellectually engage with texts, and that good writing facilitates this dimension to texts. Within this context, then, non-graded writing helps to serve the pedagogical aim of the course. The article has an appendix showing a sample `B' contract, a sample `A' contract, and a discussion of the rationale behind the contracts.

Harris, Muriel. "Evaluation: The Process for Revision." Journal of Basic Writing 1.4 ( ): 82-90.

Describes types of evaluation that can be offered by teacher or peers at various stages of the writing process. How to tailor feedback to each stage; how to encourage students to become better self- evaluators.

Haswell, Richard H. "Minimal Marking." College English 45.6 (1983): 600-604.

Argues for a "minimal marking" approach to grammatical/mechanical mistakes in student writing: simply indicate, using a check in the margin of the paper, where such mistakes are, and force the student to pinpoint and correct them. Presents data indicating that students can and do correct mistakes marked in this way, most of the time. The technique also reduces the number of errors that appear in first drafts.

Hays, Janice N., Kathleen M. Brandt, and Kathryn H. Chantry. "The Impact of Friendly and Hostile Audiences on the Argumentative Writing of High School and College Students." Research in the Teaching of English 22.4 (1988): 379-387.

Study of argumentative papers written by high school seniors and college undergrads to either friendly or hostile audience. Papers were holistically scored, rated for variables related to audience activity, and writers ranked on Perry scale. Perry scale rank correlated better than demographic variables with holistic score. Significant relationship found between audience activity, Perry scale rank, grade level, and holistic scores.

Holt, Dennis. "Holistic Scoring in Many Disciplines." College Teaching 41.2 (1993): 71-74.

Outlines methods used in holistic scoring: determining general standards for an assignment, making comparative judgements about quality. Explains adaptations for assessing writing in particular circumstances and across disciplines.

Kline, Nancy. "Writing as Translation: The Great Between." How Writers Teach Writing. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992. 175-187.

Argues for an analogy between writing and translating: both involve taking words in one language (internal or external) and translating them into another language (external or differently external). Writing is always done in this place between one's own internal language and the words on the page.

Lees, Elaine O. "Evaluating Student Writing." College Composition and Communication 30.4 (1979): 370-374.

Discusses how to comment profitably to student writing. Divides marginal commentary into correcting (overemphasizes errors), emoting (elicits 'So What?'), describing (doesn't help student revise), suggesting (might help this paper, but not others), questioning (might get student to rethink), reminding (could connect lecture to paper), and assigning (can actually get student to re-see the issue).

Linn, Robert L., Stephen P. Klein, and Frederick M. Hart. "The Nature and Correlates of Law School Essay Grades." Educational and Psychological Measurement 32 (1972): 267-279.

Study attempting to determine what characteristics of essays written by law students were most strongly associated with the grades given those essays by law professors. Results: student grades higher if they identified major issues and stuck to those; used transitional phrases; argued for a particular conclusion while presenting both sides of the argument; used legal jargon; and wrote neatly and without mechanical errors.

MacAllister, Joyce. "Responding to Student Writing." Teaching Writing in All Disciplines: New Directions for Teaching and Learning No. 12. Ed. C.W. Griffith. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1982. 59- 65.

Argues that the best way to improve student writing is to eliminate 3 beliefs: that instructors should comment a lot on student papers; that they should know a lot of grammatical rules; and that the most effective comments from the instructor are on the final draft. Also recommends peer review.

Mallonee, Barbara C., and John R. Breihan. "Responding to Students' Drafts: Interdisciplinary Consensus." College Composition and Communication 36.2 (May 1985): 213-231.

Author describes results of faculty workshops and cross-curricular collaborations among faculty. There are several areas of consensus in dealing with student writing, e.g., decide how to deal with mechanical errors; come up with a common terminology to refer to writing; develop a process of responding to papers (e.g., suit responses to a purpose; don't mark up the final draft too much; use checklists that prioritize things, etc.).

McDonald, W.U., Jr. "The Revising Process and the Marking of Student Papers." College Composition and Communication 29.2 (1978): 167-170.

Discusses how to respond appropriately to preliminary drafts of student papers. Among first things to look for: a focus or thesis (which may be at the end rather than the beginning of the paper). Also of first importance: content, coherence, and clarity. In later drafts can concentrate more on grammar/mechanics.

Odell, Lee. "Responding to Student Writing." College Composition and Communication 24 (1973): 394-400.

Odell suggests that teachers' responses to student writing should identify and refine the strategies of students' mental processes. These strategies include focus, contrast, change, reference to sequence, reference to physical context, and classification. He analyzes several examples of student writing to explain useful response techniques.

Onore, Cynthia. "The Student, the Teacher, and the Text: Negotiating Meanings through Response and Revision." Writing and Response: Theory, Practice, and Research. Ed. Chris Anson. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1989. 231-260.

One of the advantages of process writing is that it allows the writer to engage with the material in a deeper, more sophisticated way. The assumption is that process that involves this sort of engagement will automatically result in a better text. This is not necessarily the case. In preliminary study of the effects of teacher commentary upon three students' writing, the student whose work was judged most improved was also the student who had resisted any problematic engagement with the material, while the student whose work was judged to have declined throughout the process was the student who had engaged more deeply with her material. The results of the study did indicate that writing can be used to further inquiry, but the methodology was flawed.

Rieber, Lloyd. "Paraprofessional Assessment of Students' Writing." College Teaching 41.1 (1993): 15-18.

Describes a way to get around the problem of evaluating student papers in large classes, specifically a large business writing class: hire paraprofessionals to evaluate the writing. Authors hired people with extensive editing experience to edit students' papers for grammar/mechanics, and for technique or strategy used (thesis statement with exaples, compare/contrast). Editors also conduct one-on-one tutorials with students.

Robertson, Michael. "Writing and Responding." Writer's Craft, Teacher's Art: Teaching What We Know. Ed. Mimi Schwartz. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1991. 115-124.

Describes the author's approach to commenting on or responding to student writing, which is based on his experiences with an editor at a NYC magazine and is based on a medical/diagnosis analogy. Gives 4 principles to use in responding: most comments should be aimed at revision; respond to content; establish a dialogue; and point out general principles of good writing.

Rose, Mike. "Education Standards Must be Reclaimed for Democratic Ends." The Chronicle of Higher Education 3 July 1991: A32.

Discusses calls for higher standards of evaluation in school, and the equality vs. excellence debate. Argues that "clearly defined standards that are employed fairly facilitate learning" and show students that their teachers have high expectations (thereby encouraging students to meet those expectations). Questions: can we raise standards without teaching the test? Can we devise coherent standards and explain them clearly to students? Shouldn't we explain to students how the standards came about, and be willing to change them as times change?

Slattery, Patrick. "Encouraging Critical Thinking: A Strategy of Commenting on College Papers." College Composition and Communication 41 (1990): 332-335.

Suggests types of comments that can be made on student papers to encourage critical thinking: a support response and a challenge response.

Sommers, Nancy. "Responding to Student Writing." College Composition and Communication 33.2 (1982): 148-156.

Study of comments by professors on student papers. Findings: Profs' comments have effect of appropriating text from students to profs. Profs' comments are not text- specific and, in fact, could be put anywhere on any paper. Suggestions: don't comment on mechanical errors on first draft; provide comments that force students to rethink or clarify their position on an issue.

White, Edward H. "How Theories of Reading Affect Responses to Student Writing." Teaching and Assessing Writing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985. 100-119.

Discusses theories of reading: does the meaning reside in the text or is it constructed by the reader? Current theory supports the latter, that reading is a process of interaction between reader and text. Also currently popular are theories of writing as a process, and measurement of writing using holistic scoring. Author ties these trends together.

[Back to top]