Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Creative Writing Workshop Grading Rubric

I have high expectations for students who give feedback. I've certainly felt the hostility of peers who said one thing but wrote another, labelled me and my work, etc. However, I am using a strategy I learned from Laura Moriarty (the Fiction writer)--to grade the students giving feedback to each peer.

Contemporary Forms Workshop Grading Rubric / Fall 2012

Evaluation Criteria

Needs development


Provides overall understanding of piece, constructive and concrete feedback, and


Considers all of the workshop prompts. Provides three examples of writing excellence and one suggestion with elaboration for choices.


Respectful of the writer, the writer’s vision and statement, and theme.

Based on this rubric, you will be assigned a grade. A “C” results in where one criterion needs development. A “D”—two. An “F”—all three.


From my syllabus:

Workshop Policy

For workshops, you will not be graded for what you submit for the class, but for the quality of your responses to workshop pieces. In other words, you will hand in one typed copy of your response to me and another to the person you are responding to.

However, you still need to turn in what qualifies as an assignment, based on the complexity of the approach. Failure to turn in a complete assignment will affect the overall final grade.

Assignments for workshop are distributed on the class day before the workshop day (For a Wednesday workshop, on Monday; for a Monday workshop, on Friday, etc.). Also, please email me your work by 2pm that day, so I may email it out to the class (sans Artist Statement). This helps with the copy-and-paste references one might wish to highlight.

As this is a different policy than other workshops, I have found it effect—to ensure each peer reviewee is given an equal response from each reviewer without bias.

Your review should answer:

  • Before reading the artist statement, what is your understanding of what the piece is “doing,” representing, etc.?
  • Where are three amazing things or areas (sections, sentences, form changes, use of content, etc.) about the piece and why?
  • What is one part that could use more amazing? For this part, would you recommend to revise, omit, or move?
  • Read the artist statement. Aside from the description of the writer’s intent, what other things (writings, real-world complications, etc.) does this remind you of?
  • What recommendations would you make for future writing approaches leading to a book?
  • What other things can you say about this?

In the end, with the Final Portfolio, I will assign a grade to the revised work turned in, as it meets the requirements of the Final Portfolio. In other words, Statements of Intent, support material, first drafts, etc. should be included in the Final Portfolio.


I also include the reasons behind this approach:

We will seek new avenues for conducting workshops. Personally, I enjoy one-on-one meetings with people I trust and know their approach to work, etc. which is similar to a seminar. As the seminar was replaced by the workshop, where many peers make comments on a particular piece, the intimacy also seemed to disappear.

I have a history of bad workshop experiences, which I will discuss in class. You can share yours, too. Here is one of my experiences: In a graduate Fiction workshop class, people knew I was writing out of personal experiences. However, they read the "made-up" parts as true and the accurate parts as "too stereotypical."

From a friend of mine: I remember getting castigated in an undergrad class because the main characters struggle with narcolepsy was unrealistic and cartoonish. They thought I should have done more research. Adam was the instructor and the only one who knew I had narcolepsy (I tell all my teachers) and he had his head in his hands the whole time. Then I got to tell everybody that I'd been diagnosed since I was sixteen and they ended up feeling silly.

From another friend of mine: The students would make casual comments about my work, but then I would receive the written comments which were negative, demeaning—the opposite of what I expected based on the classroom discussion. Sometimes I received these written comments without the name of the reviewer.

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