Doug Hesse’s article in the Washington Post offers a quiz and an argument for why computers can’t grade essays.
Here’s an excerpt:
Any piece of writing is good or bad within at least five dimensions:
*how well it fits a given readership or audience;
*how well it achieves a given purpose;
*how much ambition it displays;
*how well it conforms to matters of fact and reasoning; and
*how well it matches formal conventions expected by its audience.
No writing teacher can be a walking encyclopedia, but all must have a flexible broad knowledge and a keen ear for things missing or ringing not quite true. They ask whether claims have evidence and whether reasoning is sound, then suggest ways to improve.
Of course, teachers must also judge how students handle conventions: matters of grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, citation, formatting, and so on. I list these features last, when many people assume they most occupy English teachers, but of course they’re vital. My point is that so are the other dimensions. The art of grading requires judging how all five together describe a student’s performance.