Understanding Variations Between Student and Teacher Application of Rubrics

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While rubrics have their limitations, many studies show that they can clarify teacher expectations, and in comparison to a simple score or a letter grade, provide more information about the strengths and weaknesses of students’ writing. Few studies, however, have explored the variations between students’ and teachers’ readings of rubrics and how such differences affect student writing. This article describes the findings of a mixed-methods research study designed to identify discrepancies between students’ and teachers’ interpretation of rubrics and investigate how such mismatches influence the use of rubrics. For the study, students and instructors in a first-year writing program at a medium-sized state university were provided with a rubric created for end-of-course assessment and asked to share their understanding of the rubric and apply the rubric to a sample student paper previously normed by faculty. The researchers then explored discrepancies between the students’ and the instructors’ interpretation and application of the rubric in essay evaluation. Data analysis revealed significant differences between faculty and students. The article concludes with suggestions for how to address these differences in the writing classroom.


Georgia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Annual Conference (GATESOL)


Atlanta, GA

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