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Emily Morris

ENG 5020-01
Dr. Mia Zamora
September 30, 2019

Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgement

Students’ have always been identified with a letter grade during most of their academic

careers. Teachers slap a letter on our paper in that blood-stained ink and there is either a passing

grade or a failing grade. With this letter permanently on our papers, it sometimes distinguishes

what our fate is throughout the rest of your academic career.

Peter Elbow displays the advantages and disadvantages of ranking, evaluating and liking

in his article ​Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgement​. Elbow

begins to describe the reasons why ranking (students’ writing) is not an efficient way to assess

one's paper. Unreliability, uncommunicative and oversimple quantitative verdicts are his three

reasons against ranking. Overall, Elbow is explaining how students will not benefit from any

type of letter or number grade; it will only hurt them in the long run.

Elbow transitions into explaining how the process of evaluating students' papers benefits

them. For example, by taking the time to thoroughly read through their paper, the teachers will

have a better understanding of their thinking process, how to help them with sentence structure,

and correct spelling and grammar mistakes. Developing that foundation with any students’ paper

instead of giving them a number or letter without any explanation will help them enhance their

writing and they will learn from past mistakes.


Finally, Elbow touches on a subject that many can relate too; the ​idea​ of liking our own

writing and/or our students' writing. He expresses how students should do a lot of private writing

and share their work with each other. By doing so, they will be opening their creative minds to

their own peers and they will be introduced to an idea or thought they never thought possible.

Also, they can receive the praise they need to increase their confidence in their own writing.

Likewise, Elbow points out that if we can like our writing as well, this will benefit us as

educators with our students’ writing.

Reading this article by Elbow really opened my eyes to the grading world. Being a

preschool teacher, I never had to grade a child's writing like described in the article, but I do

evaluate them on milestones based on what is appropriate for their age. However, what really

spoke to me, was ​liking​ your own work and others, but mostly my own. For over a decade I

struggled with my mental health and writing was one of my releases that I express tremendously.

Dealing with something so powerful and energy-draining, I always questioned myself when it

came to my own work.

While reading this section of Elbow’s article, he started to point out some feelings about

the subject that I resonated with. While attending a writers workshop, Elbow mentions this ​old

story​ he heard where people either like or dislike their work before or after it has been

completed. He further explains:

“People who get better and get published really tend to be driven by how much they care

about their writing. Yes, they have a small audience at first-after all, they're not very

good. But they try reader after reader until finally, they can find people who like and

appreciate their writing. I certainly did this. If someone doesn't like her writing enough to
be pushy and hungry about finding a few people who also like it, she probably won't get

better” (200).

This truly spoke to me because over time, I grew the confidence in my creative writing class

back in high school when my peers applauded my story. This gave me the reinsurance I needed

to continue writing and aim for the stars.


Work Cited

Elbow, Peter. “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment.”

College English, vol. 55, no. 2, Feb. 1993, pp. 187–206.


Reflection Questions

1. Besides the points list by Elbow, what might you feel could be advantages or
disadvantages with either ranking or evaluating?

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2. Have you experienced an Evaluation-free Zone in any of your classes throughout school?
Or do you use something similar to this tactic in your own classroom?

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3. Elbow likes to have his students to ​free-write​ for a few minutes and afterward share to
gain immediate feedback and an increase in confidence. Please take a few minutes to
write whatever comes to mind.

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