Shared Criteria and Standards for Formative Assessment[1]

Technical Competency and Related Presentational Skills



Criterion and Standards1:  Focus



 (6, 5)              The sample responds fully to the assignment and its rhetorical context.  The entire sample has a clear and consistent focus, responding fully and specifically to the assignment and rhetorical context (occasion, audience, purpose). The central ideas are conveyed clearly, and the scope is manageable given the nature of the assignment.



 (4, 3)               The sample addresses the assignment, but is unevenly responsive.  Much of the sample clearly and consistently addresses the assignment and rhetorical context (occasion, audience, purpose). Most of the central ideas are apparent, though further clarification is needed for some. The sample contains occasional digressions or irrelevancies. 


Needs Improvement:

  (2, 1)              The sample is not responsive to the assignment.  The sample fails to address key elements of the assignment.  The main topics are too broad given the length of the paper, or the central points are simply not clear.  The sample may be fragmented, with various points receiving equal attention.



Criterion and Standards2:  Development & Support



                    The sample's major ideas are developed clearly and logically.  The sample reflects sound reasoning, and the information is accurate.  Readers should follow, understand, and respect the reasoning.  The sample invites constructive engagement with the reader.  Major ideas are well developed and clearly explained.  The sample avoids common fallacies. The support is tailored to suit the audience and occasion.









(Development and Support, Continued):



                  The sample's major ideas are developed unevenly.  Major ideas are well developed as a whole, but occasional problems in support, explanations, or accuracy are likely to confuse readers or cause them to question the author’s reasoning. Most ideas are conveyed clearly and succinctly, though clarification and elaboration are sometimes needed. The sample contains a few relatively minor fallacies. 


Needs Improvement:

             The development of  major ideas is lacking and/or confusing.  Readers would likely find significant flaws in logic, accuracy, explanations, or reasoning.  Major ideas are barely supported or merely repeated.  Generalizations are used when more specific evidence is needed.  Fallacies undermine the author’s credibility.  Problems with reasoning are likely to alienate the audience or otherwise undermine the communication process.



Criterion and Standards3:  Organization



                  The organization is clear.  Paragraphs and sentences follow a reasonable, coherent, discernable sequence.  Readers should rarely if ever question the connection between one idea and another.  Transitions and/or headings effectively signal the relationships among the larger parts of the sample.  The audience will be likely to find the sample engaging and easy to follow.



                  The organization is generally clear, but relationships are sometimes forced or not fully apparent.  The organizational scheme is recognizable, but a few jumps in thought disrupt the flow.  The author has a sense of grouping ideas in paragraphs, but some transitions are awkward or not fully clear.  The organizational scheme may be too formulaic or predictable to suit the audience and occasion. The audience may be engaged throughout most of the text, but may have some difficulty following the flow at times.


Needs Improvement:

                  The sample is haphazardly or confusingly arranged.  Readers will struggle in connecting ideas, sentences, or paragraphs. 













Criterion and Standards4:  Mechanics and Presentation



                  The author makes effective use of appropriate written conventions, including   grammar, punctuation, spelling, and stylistic variability.  A few minor errors may appear in the sample, but on the whole the author makes effective use of appropriate conventions. Documentation of the author’s work is provided as necessary (for the audience and occasion).  The author makes ethical and effective use of rhetorical tools[2].  The sample is guided by a strong and consistent authorial presence.  Rhetorical choices are appropriate to the genre, audience, occasion, and purpose(s).   The author makes appropriate and effective use of diction, syntax, tone, and stylistic variability. 



                  The sample is generally effective, but there are a few difficulties  in the use of appropriate written conventions, such as in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and stylistic variability.  The author generally makes effective use of appropriate written conventions, though there are a few relatively minor errors within the sample.  Rhetorical tools are used effectively in much of the sample, though not throughout.  A strong authorial voice can be found within the sample, though sometimes unevenly.  Figures and other elements of style support fulfillment of the authorial purpose throughout much of the text, though occasionally inappropriate or ineffective uses undermine fulfillment of the author’s goals. 


Needs Improvement:

                  There are significant difficulties in the use of appropriate written conventions, including grammar or punctuation errors even in simple sentences.  Readers have difficulty understanding the text.  Errors undermine the author’s credibility and ability to communicate effectively. Readers have difficulty finding a guiding authorial voice. Stylistic choices are inappropriate to the genre and occasion. Problems with diction and tone disrupt the flow of communication.










Focus: “What is the author seeking to convey, and who would want to read the sample?”


What a focus IS NOT

A focus

        •      is not merely staying on topic.  A focus is how your paper responds to the specific assignment (purpose, audience, occasion) and what your paper seeks to convey


        •      is not simply having a thesis sentence in your introduction.  A focus should determine practically

                everything  throughout  your paper.


        •      is not just writing on something that interests you.  Your focus should be one that responds specifically to the assignment and to the particular audience and occasion.


What a focus IS

A focus

        •      is responding fully to the assignment, with a clear central purpose.  While there can be many reasons for writing, the assignment (audience, purpose, occasion) should control the entire paper.  Readers should not have to guess what your “real” purpose is.


        •      is manageable given the situation in which you as a writer are placed.  A focus should not be too

                broad or ambitious given the length of your paper and the nature of the assignment.  A focus is specific enough so that you can thoroughly cover it and address all aspects of the assignment.


        •      is important for a particular audience and occasion.  The purpose and point of your paper should interest your readers and should be relevant to them.


Development & Support:  “What information, ideas, and reasoning does the paper provide to achieve its purpose?”

What development & support ARE NOT

Development & support

        •      are not just expressing your opinion or how you feel. 


        •      are not simply giving details.  Use details that matter most to your audience, purpose, and occasion.


        •      are not merely rewording and repeating your major point.


What development & support ARE

Development & support

        •      are offering information, logic, examples, and reasoning that best clarify or support  your focus.


        •      are asking, “Would my readers understand and accept each idea, or should I add support?”


        •      are moving toward specifics rather than generalizations.


•      are  identifying and responding to the explicit values, assumptions, emotions and interests in a given   perspective.


Organization: “Are there clear, logical connections between sentences and between paragraphs, is there an overall sense of order for the paper, and are readers able to engage the essay without difficulty throughout?”


What organization IS NOT


        •      is not merely having an introduction, middle, and end.


        •      is not simply using a formula such as the five-paragraph-theme.  Paragraphing and arrangement

                should be shaped to suit your audience, occasion, and purpose.


        •      is not just using transitional words such as “therefore” and “in addition.”  These can help but should

                not be used to force a relationship between ideas.


What organization IS


        •      is a matter of wording and arranging sentences in such a way that they clearly connect not only

                with one another but also with your focus.


        •      is built around how paragraphs are logically sequenced.  If you could switch around most of your

                paragraphs in almost any order, that is a sign they do not really build on one another.


        •      is largely built around paragraphs that are unified.  That is, each paragraph is devoted to one major

                claim,  point, or idea--each going back to your focus.


Mechanics: “Am I making effective use of appropriate written conventions?”

What mechanics ARE NOT



      •         are not trivial.  Mechanical errors create confusion; they also cause readers to doubt your

                credibility and compromise your ability to communicate effectively.


      •         are not  the only important tools.  A paper can be mechanically perfect but ineffective by being boring,  illogical,  unreasonable,  unclear, or unresponsive to the audience’s interests, values, beliefs, or concerns.

      •          cannot be addressed by  computerized spell-checkers and grammar-checkers alone.



What mechanics ARE



•           are important to keep in mind while drafting your work, but they are also proofreading matters done at the  end of the writing process.  Writing is too complex to do everything at once.


      •         are important to all readers--not just teachers—in their evaluations of your writing.


•      are important to the communication process.


      •         are often matters of choice  rather than rules.  Sometimes you have to consider your audience and situation more than a book of rules.


Presentation: “Am I  making effective and ethical use of available rhetorical tools?”


What presentation IS NOT


      •         is not about audience manipulation. Ethical and  effective   communication requires respect and reciprocity.  Manipulation undermines integrity,  engagement,  trust,  respect, pursuit of knowledge, insight, truth, community-building, reasoned deliberation, and understanding. 


      •         is not  about style alone.  A paper can be stylistically elegant but ineffective by being unresponsive

            to the audience’s interests, values, beliefs, or concerns.


    •            is  not  something that computerized spell-checkers and grammar-checkers are sophisticated enough to handle.



What presentation IS


•              is critical to fulfillment of your purpose


      •         is a reflection of sensitivity to the audience and occasion.


•      is key to effective communication.


      •         is  complex.  Although there are general guidelines available for ethical and effective use of rhetorical tools, application of these guidelines in any given  context  requires  understanding of diverse genres and occasions,  critical self reflection, balanced partiality, moral imagination, and  careful consideration of  your specific audience’s interests, values, beliefs, and assumptions .











[1] This instrument is adapted from the work of the EWU Dept. of English, in collaboration with Joseph Eng, previously Composition Director of EWU and currently Professor of English and Director of Writing and Academic Skills Achievement Programs, CSUMB.  Revisions reflect responsiveness to ideas generated during CSUMB’s Spring 2007 TLA/UWP EngCom Collaborative,  the  2007 All Campus Pre-Fall Writing Workshop, the Fall 2007 Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) “Brown Bag” Forum Series, and through numerous consultations with EngCom instructional faculty at CSUMB.



[2] Among the many rhetorical tools available are analogies, metaphors, and  other  figures  of  speech , appeals to authority and related appeals,  hypothetical examples, illustrations, first-person narrative accounts and related strategies for establishing a strong authorial ethos.  In general, using these and other rhetorical tools to deceive or mislead readers is considered unethical. 


[3] The text to follow is adapted from the Summer, 1999 EWU Composition Program’s version of a document titled “Shared Criteria for Formal Writing.”  Revisions reflect responsiveness to ideas generated during CSUMB’s Spring 2007 TLA/UWP EngCom Collaborative, the   2007 All Campus Pre-Fall Writing Workshop, the Fall 2007 Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) “Brown Bag” Forum Series, and through numerous consultations with CSUMB’s EngCom instructional faculty.