A Rubric to Enrich Student Writing and Understanding
Keywords:authentic assessment, formative assessment, learning outcomes, rubric development, student writing, written and oral communication
The importance of effective communication, both written and oral, has been widely documented within the STEM community. In fact, the ability to communicate effectively is a skillset that is often required by employers. Oftentimes it is challenging to make the transition from academia to the work place. The ability to communicate well is a critical element of this transition. This paper will describe a more authentic experience using a professional conference format that provides students an opportunity to sharpen both their written and oral communication skills. The professional conference paper activity has been utilized in a second-level physics course at American University for 15 years. The conference paper activity allows students to experience all aspects of a professional conference, which is something that they do not get in other courses. This paper will describe the conference paper activity and focus on the use of a rubric that has recently been implemented in order to assist students during multiple phases of the writing process. Through the conference paper, students must communicate about a technical topic in physics while simultaneously connecting that topic to their major field of study. Numerous steps are involved in the paper writing process and each one is designed to emulate an actual conference. The conference paper activity and the associated rubric discussed in this paper offer a unique opportunity for multiple points of feedback, both from the instructor and from their classmates, while the writing process is taking place. Too often in academia a writing activity is designed in such a way that students merely submit their final written papers for a grade. Once a final paper is submitted, there is no opportunity for feedback that will aid in the actual development and writing of the paper. A more traditional paper writing experience does not provide opportunities for formative feedback prior to submission of the final paper. Hence, students do not have the necessary opportunities to really think about and reflect on what they are writing. This paper will address the importance of providing this more formative feedback using a unique rubric designed to assist students while the writing is actually taking place. A summary of students’ perceptions of this process will also be provided.
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