Sunday, February 17, 2013

Linda Barro

How FODIC Helped Clarify Grading for my Students 
I’d been teaching at the community college for approximately five years. Every year at evaluation time my comments would come back that the students didn’t understand my grading. I had a watered down holistic scoring rubric I'd been using for some time and I guess the vague generalities of such a guide could be confusing. With statements like “the essay’s topic is somewhat clear…” and “the details are vivid in some places and vague in others” I could understand that.

What was another concern was the application of these concepts to their other courses. If they didn’t think they’d be writing personal narratives in biology why would the way I graded it transfer to the lab reports they would be writing?

Some modification was needed in the scoring, or at least in the way I explained it to them.  It was in prepping my lecture on introductions that the idea for the new format emerged. FODIC, is an acronym for Focus, Organization, Development, Introduction, and Conclusion. When I assigned the next paper, I added it under the grading section of the document.
“It doesn’t matter what class you’re writing your paper for, all essays and reports should have these essential elements,” I explained. “If the paper isn’t focused on a single aspect, the reader won’t know what they’re reading nor why they should bother to read it. If the organization of information is difficult to follow they may miss the point you’re trying to make,” I continued. No response.

“Details are tricky though. Some teachers want everything outlined; others want the bare essentials. Whichever the case, make sure you’ve given enough description to meet the needs of your reading audience.” My audience wanted clarification – how detailed is too detailed? That was a tough one. I explained that it depends on the assignment, and if those parameters are unclear, to ask the teacher for an example of a “good” detail.

I was on a roll. “Rare is the paper that lacks an introduction that can jump right into the subject and not confuse the reader. Therefore, it’s important to guide the reader into what aspect you’ll be discussing, why it’s relevant, and what your point in discussing it will be. In other words, you need an introduction to set the stage for the rest of the paper.”

“Just as the introduction guides the reader into the paper, the conclusion lets him or her know that you’ve made your point. The difficult part here is to not be repetitive. If the paper is less than five pages long, let’s give the reader some credit for remembering what she or he just read and not repeat the key parts. If, however, the paper is over five pages, then you might be able to get away with ending your paper with a summary of the key points made.”
The students seemed to understand this as their papers improved.
My lecture has evolved a bit since 2005, but the concept is still used and still effective. It’s also helped with peer review, but that’s another story.


  1. And Linda--I hope we hear that other story at some point...