University of Wisconsin–Madison

USING RUBRICS TO TEACH AND EVALUATE WRITING IN BIOLOGY

Dr. Michelle Harris & Dr. Janet Batzl, Biocore

Receiving Feedback. Writing is a process and even very experienced writers spend a lot of time rewriting. Your TAs will give you feedback and suggestions on your papers to help you in this process. Note, however, that it is not their responsibility to point out every flaw or to revise your papers for you. Revising is your responsibility. It pays to keep working at this. The feedback we get from Biocore students years later is that one of the most valuable things they learned in Biocore was clear thinking and writing. The two are very connected.

The Big Picture. TA comments (and your grade) will focus much more on “The Big Picture” than on editing details. Here is what we mean by “big picture”. In evaluating your papers, the TAs ask: 1. Did the Introduction convey why the experiment was performed and what it was designed to test? 2. Did the Methods clearly describe how the hypothesis was tested/ general predictions were addressed? 3. Did the Results clearly and effectively display relevant data? 4. Did the Discussion present conclusions that make sense based on the data? As TAs and instructional staff are reviewing papers, we constantly refer to these same four points when making final decisions about individual grades. Review expectations outlined in the Paper and Proposal Rubrics BEFORE you start writing your paper!

Paper and Proposal Rubrics. All Biocore TAs use a detailed rubric to assess each section of your paper on a 1-4 scale. We use this rubric to clearly state our expectations for your writing. The paper and proposal rubrics are found on the following pages; you should refer to them before, during and after writing your paper and whenever your graded papers are returned. Note that the four “Big Picture” questions are embedded within the rubric, and the final row of the rubric focuses on overall organization, grammar, and wording. The goal is for you to use your TA’s written comments in tandem with your rubric ratings to improve your writing on subsequent revisions or new assignments.

Biocore Lab Paper Review Rubric (WM = Biocore Writing Manual)