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Office of University Writing

Office of The Provost

Getting on the Same Page


When I was an undergraduate, I had a course that had a weekly writing assignment. The topic was on the board as we walked into class and the essay was due at the end of the class session. The following class period we got our papers back with a grade at the top, but not a single comment. It was always a mystery to me why I got the grades I got because I had no clear sense of the criteria the professor was using to assign those grades. But all these years later, professors – at least professors at Auburn – have developed better strategies to help students understand the expectations.

One of the most widespread of these strategies is using a rubric. Hear Professor Michael Watkins talk about developing a common rubric to be used throughout the department and how he uses that rubric as a tool for teaching students what it means to write a philosophical argument:

But rubrics have other benefits as well. Or, listen to Vic Nelson of Electrical and Computer Engineering describe how using a rubric developed by his department’s curriculum committee saves him time:

For Professor Hilary Wyss, using a rubric has benefits for teachers working with graduate students or supervising a course that has multiple instructors teaching different sections:

Developing a rubric forces us to think through our expectations before we give the assignment to students. Using a rubric helps us stay consistent across an entire class set of papers and let us be both more efficient and effective. Talking with students about the criteria included in a rubric makes our disciplinary and professional expectations more visible and thus nurtures budding professionals. Rubrics aren’t the only strategy professors use to help students understand their expectations, but they are a good place to start.


Learn more about engaging writing assignments:

Need help with a rubric? Contact us for a workshop or an individual consultation.

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