To grade rough drafts or not to grade them: that is the question I’ve wrestled with recently in my English teaching. Writing takes so much time to assess, especially when teaching the writing process and requesting that students revise multiple drafts of the same piece of writing. Moreover, I’ve learned over the years that students are more likely to take the writing process seriously if they are graded along the way. My own approach has been to grade first, second, and sometimes third drafts, and then record solely the final grade, but I know other teachers who opt to average the three (the better to keep students motivated in the early and middle stages of the drafting process).
I began to confront this ongoing inner wrestling when I attended the National Writing Project Midwest Conference at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, August 3rd through 5th. Jen Doucette, from the Greater Madison Writing Project, presented a workshop on assessing student writing. She teaches creative writing classes and she has eliminated assessments on writing assignments – no points, no percentages, no grades. This approach to teaching writing seemed wonderful to me at first glance, but I realized there was a distinct difference between her assessment situation and mine. She teaches an elective course in creating writing while my writing instruction takes place in ELA core classes. However, I agreed with much of her rationale for eliminating grades on writing assignments.
One of Doucette’s reasons for eliminating writing grades really struck a positive chord with me. She posited teacher’s values for writing progress being misaligned with an assessment rubric as a reason to jettison the rubric. Doucette’s writing mentor is Maja Wilson’s text, Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment. According to Wilson, “An assessment method must convince us that it reflects our values about teaching writing before it seduces us with its claim to save time” (28). Continue reading