Teaching Analytical Writing Throgh Rubrics

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Date Submitted: 09/13/2010 03:00 PM

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Maria Rost Rublee, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Government & World Affairs University of Tampa

Teaching Analytical Writing Through Rubrics

The Impetus All political science professors want to see their students write better, and more importantly, write more analytically. We want to see our students rise above mere description and speculation, and learn how to analyze material and create their own insights. My professional background created a particular impetus for teaching analytical writing. Before getting my Ph.D., I was a journalist and editor – and thus I learned to place a premium on direct and concise writing. During my Ph.D. program, I dabbled in government work – and realized that analytical writing was both highly valued and infrequently found. Therefore, one of my goals as a tenure-track professor is to teach students to write clearly and analytically. Not only does this force them to grapple with the course material – as opposed to simply memorizing it – it also pushes them to hone skills that will make them more competitive in the job market. However, I quickly realized that while I expected my students to write analytically, I was not really teaching them how to do so – at least not clearly and systematically. Instead, students who were both naturally good writers and analytical were rewarded with As. Those who weren’t, weren’t. While I gave students extensive help with writing mechanics, I didn’t provide clear, direct guidance as to how a student could improve their analytical skills. So instead of teaching analysis, I was selecting for it – which disappointed me. The Inspiration However, not until the 2005 APSA Teaching & Learning Conference did I realize how I could make my expectations more clear: through a rubric. A presentation on rubrics in debates made me realize that such a tool could help me clarify what I expected from my students. In searching for an appropriate rubric, I was able to find writing rubrics, but most were for middle school...