Evaluating writing represents a most challenging task. Beginning with a carefully designed assignment can help, and so can clearly defined expectations. Below are some guidelines to help develop evaluation criteria.

Design: Make criteria explicit and match them with assignment goals.

  • Use the language of the course and the writing assignment's stated purpose to frame the criteria.
  • Use only a few trait areas, such as "Content, Reasoning, Organization, Style, and Correctness." See "Disciplinary-Based Writing Rubric" for sample categories/criteria.
  • Weight the criteria to indicate different course priorities as appropriate.
    (Unless the class is a writing course, content, reasoning, and organization typically should be weighted more than correctness.)

Process: Use criteria to assess the writing in process.

  • Whenever possible, use samples of student papers (ranging from successful to unsuccessful) to illustrate the criteria, asking students to discern them from the models.
  • Create criteria checklists for students to use in doing self-assessments.
  • Use these same criteria to give your response to the writing in process.
  • Have writers submit their self-assessment checklists and use them to give your feedback. (Use their language where possible and indicate places of disagreement with a contrasting mark.)

Product: Use criteria to assess the final writing product.

  • Have writers submit reflective self-assessments with their final products. These reflective commentaries might take the form of a cover memo, criteria checklist, or reflective essay attached to the final product. (Be sure they stick to the same criteria in doing these final self-assessments.)
  • When evaluating the final work, use the same criteria you have worked with in process.
  • Resist the temptation to write extensive comments on final work; instead, just write one brief comment overviewing the writing's greatest strength and need. 

Consultation Times

Julie Dugger, WIS Director, is available for individual, small group or departmental consultations on any topic related to writing instruction and assessment as well as to consult on expectations for Writing Proficiency courses. 

To set up an appointment contact Julie at (360) 650-7329 or at julie.dugger@wwu.edu.


Writing Instruction Support is a Western Libraries program and Learning Commons partner.