Arts and Humanities

Informal Writing Assignments

Brad Hughes, Martin Nystrand, Paige Byam, and Tom Curtis
The assignments below are generally short, informal, perhaps ungraded writing assignments that instructors might consider adapting to their classes. Students often appreciate the opportunity to explore their thoughts on paper in such a way that relieves the pressure of a longer, more formal writing assignment.

The Question Box

Sample Evaluation Criteria for Papers in a Philosophy Course

Jocelyn Johnson, Philosophy Department, UW-Madison
This kind of rubric, from an undergraduate philosophy course on contemporary moral issues, not only emphasizes the traits of successful papers but also, with its continuum for each trait, gives students a quick visual sense of strengths and of areas to improve.  Notice that the instructor gives open-ended comments as well.  And notice the excellent explanations of the evaluation criteria--some terms, like "orginality," need explanining within the context of a particular course and particular assignment.

Sample Paper Evaluation Sheet in Philosophy



Name:_________________________________  Topic:_______________________________________________




Sample Rubric for a Research Proposal: Intermediate Composition

Matthew Pearson, English Department, UW-Madison
This rubric reinforces the key components of an effective research proposal, starting with larger rhetorical concerns and moving to language, editing, and proofreading.

English 201—Section Eight

Instructor: Matthew Pearson


Final Paper Grading Rubric—Research Proposal in a Writing Course



Sample Evaluation Criteria for Papers in History

Professor Stephen Kantrowitz, History Department, UW-Madison
Giving students explicit evaluation criteria, tailored to a particular assignment, helps students meet your expecations and helps instructors be consistent in their evaluation.  Here's a sample from the TAs and professor in a history course.

We will grade your papers on the following criteria:



Guidelines for In-Class Peer Review

Professor David Sorkin, History and Jewish Studies, UW-Madison
Professor David Sorkin not only asks students to focus their efforts on global writing concerns like argument, analysis, and clarity, but also gives them specific language for doing so.
Peer Review Instructions<

Peer Review Checklist

Janelle Schwartz, English Department, UW-Madison
TA Janelle Schwartz uses this worksheet to guide in-class peer review, pushing students to offer specific suggestions to their workshop group members.

This is to give you an idea of the type of things you should be looking for and accomplishing in both your own paper and that of your peer(s).

Guidelines for Peer Reviews

Jo Ortel, Art Department, UW-Madison
Professor Jo Ortel’s guidelines help students write complete and written responses to their peers’ drafts outside of class.

Guidelines for Peer Review Handout

Putting Together Peer Review Groups

Comm-A Instructors
The following excerpt, originally intended for Comm-A instructors in the English department, offers some ideas about putting together peer review groups.
There’s little consensus among instructors as to what kind of student combinations make for the best peer workshop groups.

Preparing for Student-Teacher Conferences

Professor Steve Stern, Department of History, UW-Madison
Many instructors have found that student-teacher conferences become more productive when the student is as prepared for them as the teacher is. Here are two examples of handouts instructors have used to help students prepare for one on one conferences.
Example #1



Using a Reverse Outline to Revise

Rebecca Schoenike Nowacek, WAC Program, UW-Madison
Rebecca Schoenike Nowacek describes a technique for helping students improve the organization of their papers by encouraging them to think about the paper more as readers and less as writers.
What is a reverse outline?
If a regular outline is something you write before you draft out your paper, a reverse outline is something you do after you write a
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