Dimensions of Excellence and Assessment – Fiction & Narrative Non-fiction Projects

Students are, of course, concerned about grades. How do instructors evaluate student performance and how do instructors assign grades? This is particularly perplexing as regards evaluating "creative" writing. I'd sum up the concerns in terms of these questions: "How can teachers judge creative works?" "Isn't it totally subjective?" In response, I would say that teachers have to be scrupulous and consistent in their evaluations and they need to explain the fact that the evaluations are actually quite objective. Below are the dimensions of narrative, both fiction and non-fiction narrative that we consider when evaluating student work:

1) The opening should be clear, engaging, dynamic, vivid.

2) Narrative voice should be consistent, appropriate.

3) The situation the story addresses should be novel, engaging, and clearly rendered.

4) The characters or (non-fiction) “Players” should be credible, complex, voiced, unique and consistent.

5) Descriptions of setting, situation, and characters should be dynamic and vivid.

6) Dialogue or quotations should be authentic, natural, and useful, moving the narrative, developing characters, and/or creating a mood.

7) The POV the story uses to experience the events of the story for the reader should be effective,and consistent.

8) If there are POV shifts, they should clear, graceful, and effective in enhancing and adding dimensions to the story.

9) The plot or (non-fiction) or structuring device(s) should be rendered with appropriate pacing, shaping.

10) Factual Information/Research that is the subject of non-fiction or crucial to a fictitious story should be accurate and delivered in a balanced way that does not hinder the narrative.

11) The level of discourse (in non-fiction) should appropriate to the target audience and consistent. In fiction, the level of discourse should be appropriate to the genre.

12) Humor, if used, should enhance rather than disrupt the narrative. It should be effective, appropriate, integrated.

We consider the above dimensions as we evaluate student work. We will assign a score (0-4) for each dimension we assess. Some dimensions ( designated in bold) are more crucial than others to the overall success of a story. We will give more weight to those dimensions as we make our overall evaluation for each story. Other dimensions (designated in italics) are less crucial.