Academic papers include reports, essays, and research papers which ask students to demonstrate their ability to apply or synthesize course knowledge and competencies in an authentic format.
Advantages and challenges of academic paper assessments
Advantages of academic paper assessments
- They can be used to measure higher order cognitive skills like synthesis, evaluation, and creation.
- Students can be allowed a choice in topics which may improve their motivation.
- The assignment can be broken down into smaller steps over time to provide students with feedback on their progress.
Challenges of academic paper assessments
- They are time consuming to read and grade.
- They provide additional challenges for students for whom English is not their first language.
Creating an academic paper assessment
- Provide clear instructions, including expectations, standards, and timelines.
- Allow student choice in topic whenever possible.
- Create a grading rubric and share it with students ahead of time.
Preparing students for writing academic papers
- Explain the purpose of the writing assignment and connect it to course learning aims.
- Describe the benefits for students of completing the assignment.
- Provide a rubric ahead of time.
- Be clear about technical specifics: paper length, formatting, and writing style expectations that are specific to your discipline.
- Consider having students peer-review each other’s paper prior to turning them in for grading.
- Inform students of resources available to support their writing in the Center for Writing.
- Consider consulting with your subject matter Librarian who can help identify resources for students and refine available research material.
- Provide a range of acceptable / unacceptable papers as examples with explanations of why.
Resource video: Information on how to set up peer review small groups for students to read and comment on each other’s drafts. 2-minute video from the K. Patricia Cross Academy.
Administering an academic paper assessment
- Provide a clear description and allow opportunities for student questions.
- Provide students with the rubric you will use for grading.
- Break the project into smaller pieces with due dates distributed throughout the term.
- Provide students with opportunities to “practice” with short formative writing projects.
- Provide students with additional resources for assistance, like the Center for Writing.
Grading an academic paper assessment
- Grade using a rubric. You can use the language of the rubric for feedback, rather than repeating the same comments.
- Avoid overloading students with feedback. Focus on a handful of comments that relate directly to the learning aims of the project.
- If students will be allowed to revise and resubmit their work, ask them to create a revision memo that summarizes the original feedback and outlines the specific changes they have made in response to that feedback. This ensures that students will read and reflect on the feedback they have received.