Toward a Unified Grading Vocabulary: Using Grading Rubrics to Set Student Expectations and Promote Consistency in Legal Writing Courses

47 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2011 Last revised: 18 Dec 2012

See all articles by Jessica L. Wherry

Jessica L. Wherry

Georgetown Law

Christy Hallam DeSanctis

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: October 21, 2011

Abstract

Faced with the American Bar Association's proposed changes to law school accreditation standards, especially related to student assessment and outcome measurement, law schools are responding by developing and incorporating assessment standards. Likely related to these proposed changes, there has been an undeniable recent trend in law school assessment scholarship, which is one way to measure law schools' reactions to the call for change. This article contributes to that trend by offering an introduction to a methodology of assessing legal writing - through the use of detailed grading guidelines called rubrics.

Our experience over the past several years of using rubrics in our legal writing courses has resulted in improved student expectations and more consistent teaching across our Legal Research and Writing (LRW) Program. In our article, we encourage the legal writing community to embrace rubrics as a way to achieve similar results. In addition, we argue that in writing courses, not only is there room for objective assessment, but there must be a means of objective assessment. If all legal writing professors are teaching solely their personal preferences and grading on subjective standards alone, they are doing their students a disservice. Instead, though, we argue that the legal writing community is marching to the beat of the same drum; even with the various acronyms for the same legal writing paradigm, we value good writing in the same way. And in using rubrics, we can create a framework in which to recognize - and measure - these qualities of good writing. In our article, we also encourage use of rubrics in other courses beyond legal writing, and based on our experience in LRW, provide some practical guidance about creating and using rubrics. Thus, the article provides both a pedagogical and practical introduction to the use of rubrics in law schools.

Keywords: legal writing, assessment, rubrics, grading guidelines, feedback, teacher training

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Wherry, Jessica L. and DeSanctis, Christy Hallam, Toward a Unified Grading Vocabulary: Using Grading Rubrics to Set Student Expectations and Promote Consistency in Legal Writing Courses (October 21, 2011). GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 574; Journal of Legal Education, 2012; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 574; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 574. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1890832

Jessica L. Wherry (Contact Author)

Georgetown Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9528 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/wherry-jessica-l.cfm#

Christy Hallam DeSanctis

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Lerner 102
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-1005 (Phone)

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