A Checklist For Grading Thoughtful Essays

Someone recently mentioned to a discussion group that it would be nice to have a list of the main points of each reading (in a particular curriculum) so that they could be confident about grading their student's essay.

MY RESPONSE AND SUGGESTIONS:

OK, I might sound a little contrarian here πŸ™‚

​One of the most difficult things for me to learn was to let go of a 'right' outline or bullet points in any given piece of literature. My training in seminary was the most challenge because I was looking for THE OUTLINE in a particular book of the Bible...I was being graded by my professor AND God!

In time, I realized that there really is no authoritative outline in an essay or other kinds of literature; meaning there is no objective/perfect outline. Obviously, if a writer gives you the outline, then use it. On the other hand, what you are really trying to do is understand a point, the point, or a pattern in the piece.

Ephesians can be broken into chapters 1-3 and 4-6, divided at 4:1 when it talks about walking worthy (in light of chapters 1-3's high calling).

Another way to go is to divide it in terms of Sit, Walk, and Stand, which also fairly breaks it down into a pattern that makes sense:

       Position: SIT (1:1 – 3:21)

       Practice: WALK (4:1 – 6:9)

       Protection: STAND (6:10-24)

You could also simply use beginning, middle, and end as an outline πŸ™‚

My advice is that given the complexity and power of the human mind in its use of language... quit imagining that there is just one set of answers or points you have to make...especially when essays are the sharing of one's own view, often about the piece of literature at hand.

It could be that an answer key would be a help, but looking for the right answer doesn't help us as much when we are interacting with powerful-and-abstract-concepts. The wrestling with ideas isn't a 1+2=3 game. We are growing students who can think, period.

I'd be far more interested in the following kinds of questions for evaluation, rather than making sure a student got the right points:

1. Did I get the sense that the essayist (your child) clearly understood the literature (or debate topic) under discussion?

2. Did the essayist support their ideas with appropriate citations?

3. Was the essayist fair?

4. Was the essayist reasonable?

5. Can I say honestly, "I see your point." [Clarity]

6. Was I tempted to agree with the essayist? [Persuasion]

7. Was the essayist challenging and supporting the idea or ideas involved, or just attacking the person in view (ad hominem is not good)?

Anyway, that's a fair starter-kit. If we want to grow independent learners who are ready for life, they must transition from finding the right answers to thinking about the right questions, true? We are wanting their thoughts, their view, their reasoning bursting forth on paper (or screen).

Blessings,

Fred Ray Lybrand

P.S. Here are a few helpful links:

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
 

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