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Best Practice: Grading Reflective Writing

To grade or not to grade

When discussing reflective writing assignments in blogs, journals, and even the discussion board, some questions come up often.

  • Should you grade these types of personal commentary?
  • Is it necessary to grade thoughts, opinions, and ideas?
  • Can you allow a work-in-progress area for experimentation without grading?

The decision to grade students’ reflective writing is a struggle between giving the freedom to write and securing the willingness to write. Some instructors choose to award credit for completion instead of in-depth grading. They rely on commenting to encourage and guide student responses.

You can use journals and blogs as prewriting spaces where students safely explore ideas and discuss course materials. When an instructor provides worthwhile feedback, students value the writing experience more. When students are not worried about performing to a standard, they are more likely to include personal reflection.

Ideally, journaling and blogging is about presenting ideas, not just a diary of events. The issue becomes whether you should grade ideas. Review your intended outcomes for using journaling and blogging, and decide if grading is appropriate.

Grading considerations

If you decide to assign grades, place the evaluation’s emphasis on the content. A rubric of assessment is a useful guide for students, so distribute rubrics before assigning the writing assignment. Discuss the evaluation in a virtual meeting or on the discussion board to verify that students understand your expectations. In a rubric, include the required amount of entries, the minimum length of entries, and the grading criteria. Assessment and evaluation might include any of the following criteria.

Evaluation Examples

In the entry, the student provided the following content:

  • A descriptive record of his or her study
  • Personal observations and questions about course material
  • Areas to review
  • Evaluation of the learning process
  • Evidence collection
  • Planned improvement or goals based on reflection

When you first assign journal or blog writing, start by requiring only a few entries throughout your course. This allows you to determine how long it takes to respond adequately to all students. If you are grading entries, you also need to allow time to provide comments and assign grades.