The great weakness of writing rubrics lies in what they leave out. In the context of emerging innovations in the practices and theories of teaching and assessing writing, traditional rubrics appear too simple, too flat, and too universal to allow us to meet our ethical and pedagogical responsibilities. To put the matter starkly, the discipline of rhetoric and composition has no method by which to answer convincingly the crucial question of what we really value in student writing. Bob Broad offers a new vision of how writing teachers and programs can, through a streamlined qualitative inquiry, usefully answer this question for themselves.
The result of a long-term study of one university's introductory composition program, Broad's approach to mapping the values that inform writing evaluation is empirically grounded, painstakingly analyzed, yet flexible, human, and pedagogically wise. Not simple, but surely practical, his method yields a more satisfactory process of exploration and a more useful representation of the values by which compositionists actually evaluate their students. With this important study, Broad moves the field far beyond rubrics in teaching and assessing writing.
What We Really Value traces the origins of traditional rubrics within the theoretical and historical circumstances out of which they emerged, then holds rubrics up for critical scrutiny in the context of contemporary developments in the field. As an alternative to the generic character and decontextualized function of scoring guides, he offers dynamic criteria mapping, a form of qualitative inquiry by which writing programs (as well as individual instructors) can portray their rhetorical values with more ethical integrity and more pedagogical utility than rubrics allow.
To illustrate the complex and indispensable insights this method can provide, Broad details findings from his study of eighty-nine distinct and substantial criteria for evaluation at work in the introductory composition program at "City University." These chapters are filled with the voices of composition instructors debating and reflecting on the nature, interplay, and relative importance of the many criteria by which they judged students' texts. Broad concludes his book with specific strategies that can help writing instructors and programs to discover, negotiate, map, and express a more robust truth about what they value in their students' rhetorical performances.