Assessment operates simultaneously across many different scales of the First-year Writing Program, e.g., projects, portfolios, courses, and the comprehensive program. Assessment focuses above all on student learning as described in project rubrics, portfolio rubrics, and program goals. Formative descriptions of student writing are oftentimes linked to explicit criteria, but instructional staff are also encouraged to exercise judgment when responding and to adapt quality descriptions that respond to contingencies reflected in writing at any stage of a project or portfolio's development.
As a first principle of assessment, instructional staff are encouraged to 1) make the terms of assessment (e.g., criteria) explicit in the project/portfolio prompt or description, 2) introduce the criteria directly and, if appropriate, repeatedly in the contexts of instruction, 3) use consistent, precise vocabulary when naming criteria and identifying them in the rubric.
While responses to projects and portfolios may include context-specific comments (i.e., comments in margins) and holistic/summative comments, the FYWP suggests using the following descriptive matrix (rubric) for assessment, as well. For example, a project with criteria such as "rhetorical footing," "development," "coherence," and "correctness," would look like this.
|Criteria/Rating||Not evident (NE)||Narrowly applied (NA)||Needs improvement (NI)||Acceptable (AC)||Exceptional (EX)|
In addition to margin comments and holistic or comprehensive end comments, the writer would also receive the rubric with one tick mark in each row corresponding to the rating for the criterion listed at the right. Each open panel (i.e., five per row) should be understood to have a low, middle, and high rating area. The quality designations correspond approximately with an A-F grading scale (or, if you with, a 4.0 grading scale). The position of the tick mark indicates the reader's rating for each criterion, and the aggregate description may be determined by the median position of the tick marks (N.b. if preferred, readers can work with the quantitative rating corresponding to each position in the rubric, though this can become involved in such a way that distracts from providing descriptions of writing that students will find practical, helpful, and, above all, pertinent to subsequent revisions). Hypothetically, a filled-in rubric would look something like this.
Based on the median position of the tick marks, the project rated this way would be in the range of C+/B-. In the First-year Writing Program, project grades are inflected with evaluations of "Invention Portfolios" (or collections of daily work, homework, in-class writing activities, etc.) and participation. Each of these aspects of assessment--invention portfolio and participation--may be included in the rubric and rated on the EX-NE scale.
An Excel-based rubric consistent with the framework shown here is available in the Google Drive FYWP Shared Folder. The rubric was influenced by Cynthia Selfe's article on assessing new media projects from Writing New Media (Utah St, 2004). The rubric is highly customizable, which makes it adaptive to conventional/formalist, multimodal, and digital writing frameworks.