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Rubric Grading Criteria For Essays

On this page you will find a variety of criteria and rubrics you can use to assess writing in history courses. It is suggested that, if any grading rubric is used in a course, that all TAs for that course use the same or a similar rubrics.

Grading tools such as spreadsheets and point conversion charts can be found on the Grading Tools page.

Paper grading criteria and rubrics

Writing Rubric
Source/Contributor: Jason Shattuck
Course: Unknown
Date: Winter 2008
Format: PDF

A one-page table correlating "Thesis/Argument," "Structure," "Evidence," "Analysis," "Sources," and "Style" with specific grade ranges.

Tips for Grading Essay and Short Problem Questions
Source/Contributor: Center for Instruction Development & Research
Course: None
Date: Unknown

One page of six grading tips for instructors. These are basic tips, but helpful, especially for those unsure of how to begin.

Criteria for Grading History Essays
Source/Contributor: Tim Wright
Course: Unknown
Date: Fall 2006
Format: Word document

A one-page adaptation and updating of an older rubric used by Professor Alexandra Harmon and apparently once standard in the history department.

Guidelines for Writing Assignments
Source/Contributor: Gigi Peterson
Course: Unknown
Date: Unknown
Format: PDF

This is a two-page handout that includes the guidelines on the first page and "Criteria for the Evaluation of Essays" on the second page. Covers the structure and format of essays (introduction, body, conclusion, and style), and refers to Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers and Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. Includes a cool Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

Some Grading Criteria for Papers & Essays
Source/Contributor: Betsy Crouch & Mike Quinn
Course: Unknown
Date: Fall 2004
Format: PDF

Probably not for use with students, this two-page handout takes a light-hearted look at what makes a good paper and includes things such as describing a C-range paper as "the classic mediocrity" "written in passable, but ‘just barely goodly English.'"

Grading Forms

Grading form
Source/Contributor: Tim Wright
Course: Unknown
Date: Fall 2006
Format: Word document form

This is a Word document form that provides a checklist format of evaluating student papers while providing room for instructor's typed comments—all on a single page that can be stapled to the student's assignment. Retention of copies of the form allows an instructor to assess whether students' writing is improving or not. This is the companion form for Wright's Paper Checklist.

Grading rubrics can be of great benefit to both you and your students. For you, a rubric saves time and decreases subjectivity. Specific criteria are explicitly stated, facilitating the grading process and increasing your objectivity. For students, the use of grading rubrics helps them to meet or exceed expectations, to view the grading process as being “fair,” and to set goals for future learning.

In order to help your students meet or exceed expectations of the assignment, be sure to discuss the rubric with your students when you assign an essay. It is helpful to show them examples of written pieces that meet and do not meet the expectations. As an added benefit, because the criteria are explicitly stated, the use of the rubric decreases the likelihood that students will argue about the grade they receive. The explicitness of the expectations helps students know exactly why they lost points on the assignment and aids them in setting goals for future improvement.

  • Routinely have students score peers’ essays using the rubric as the assessment tool. This increases their level of awareness of the traits that distinguish successful essays from those that fail to meet the criteria. Have peer editors use the Reviewer’s Comments section to add any praise, constructive criticism, or questions.
  • Alter some expectations or add additional traits on the rubric as needed. Students’ needs may necessitate making more rigorous criteria for advanced learners or less stringent guidelines for younger or special needs students. Furthermore, the content area for which the essay is written may require some alterations to the rubric. In social studies, for example, an essay about geographical landforms and their effect on the culture of a region might necessitate additional criteria about the use of specific terminology.
  • After you and your students have used the rubric, have them work in groups to make suggested alterations to the rubric to more precisely match their needs or the parameters of a particular writing assignment.

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