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Employ Holistic Evaluation on Drafts and Revisions

Evaluating a piece of writing in its entirety is effective because it values the whole piece of student writing—its argument, insight, evidence, logic, structure, language—more than its individual parts. When assessing writing holistically, focus on the most important features you’ve described in your grading rubric, such as analysis and organization, rather than solely on one feature, such as the thesis or grammar.

Grading holistically will also enable you to avoid split grades, such as B/B+. It’s confusing for a student to suggest that it’s possible to get different grades for various parts of his or her work (one grade for content and another for expression, for instance). It may help to consider each grade as representing a range of ability. B can mean a low B or a high B; a B+ can mean a low B+ or a high B+, and so on. (Explaining to students that individual grades span a range may help them understand a lower-than-expected grade.)

Should you grade drafts? Ideally your students will be permitted to revise their drafts according to the feedback they’ve received from you and/or their peers. Some instructors grade drafts to encourage students to take the draft process seriously; however, many instructors don’t grade drafts because they find that their students put the time and effort into drafting when the class has taken writing seriously. Check with your faculty instructor for guidance.

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