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EssayTagger is a web-based tool to help teachers grade essays faster.
But it is not an auto-grader.

This blog will cover EssayTagger's latest feature updates as well as musings on
education, policy, innovation, and preserving teachers' sanity.

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Rubric: Four-Strand/Four-Level

From what I'm told, the Four-Strand/Four-Level rubric is fairly common in Washington schools. I've adapted it for use in EssayTagger (you can import it straight into your own assignments!) but you'll still want to customize it to suit your needs.

EssayTagger version of the Four-Strand/Four-Level rubric:

And as I've said previously, because rubrics are so macroscopic, they inevitably undergo some changes when they are adapted for the much more fine-grained world of EssayTagger.

Changes to the rubric
- "Elaboration" has been split into separate "Elaboration" and "Evidence" elements. My sense of the original "Elaboration" descriptor is that it's really talking about proving or delving deeper into each "Reason" - or, in my parlance, each mini-claim or topic sentence. I think it makes sense to evaluate the discussion as well as the evidence incorporated into that discussion, thus the separation to "Elaboration" and "Evidence" elements.

- "Introduction" and "Conclusion" function as you'd expect (paragraph-level), but the "Middle" element has been renamed to "Organization" and configured as a whole document element. This just made more sense to me. If you wanted to, you could evaluate the organizational aspects of each individual body paragraph (rename "Organization" back to "Middle" or, better, "Body Paragraph" and configure it as paragraph-level).

Judgment calls
- "Transitions" were set up as a whole document element. If you really wanted to focus on improving transitions, you could decide to make them sentence-level so that you could evaluate and comment upon each transition attempt. I didn't think they were important enough to merit that level of attention, but my opinion is irrelevant; it's your call.

I'll be honest: I don't fully understand the "Message" and "Commentary" elements. I set them up as whole document elements but I wondered if they should be sentence-level instead. I haven't seen this rubric applied to actual essays so I'm just guessing at how these elements are normally evaluated. You tell me which makes more sense here: whole document or sentence-level?

Final notes
I strongly recommend that you add your own comments as you're grading so that your students can really benefit from your advice and your suggestions. I left the original rubric text mostly intact as I adapted it, but remember that traditional macroscopic rubrics are primarily meant to be an assessment tool and not really a learning tool. As such the comment text is not as helpful as it could be.

For example, the Basic level of Introduction reads: "May only state main points or restate prompt. May attempt one or more of the introduction strategies. Does not attempt to engage the reader. Limited sense of direction." That macroscopic text tries to incorporate all the possible ways that an introduction could be weak, but you can be much more direct and helpful in your EssayTagger comments. Ideally you'd end up with maybe 5-8 possible "Basic" comments that really speak to specific flaws.

The traditional macroscopic rubrics are just a starting point that establish the basic evaluation structure. Launch off from there and give your students the specificity they need to improve.