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Interactive Rubric for Written Communication: Persuasive Essay

This guide will help you understand common conventions of academic writing and the application of marking rubrics

Persuasive essays

Genre: A persuasive essay identifies a position in relation to a topic or issue and presents content (e.g., information and examples) and analysis (e.g., evidence and arguments) to justify the position. As conventions and expectations may differ across contexts, always check with your lecturer for the specific conventions of the genre.

Context: This persuasive essay was written in response to an assessment task that required students to take a position in relation to the nature and nurture debate, in the context of education.

Persuasive essay example 

Nature and Nurture Topic is the general subject or issue that is to be written about. The general topic for this essay is nature and nurture. in the Classroom: Context is the setting and level of focus for the general topic. The context for this essay relates to school-based education. Beyond the Dichotomy This fragment gives some indication of the essay's thesis or position.

In the context of schooling, the debate over nature and nurture is arguably the product of a false dichotomy This opening line presents a general thesis. A thesis is an overall claim, position or central idea about the topic that reflects the purpose of the writing. It is useful to emphasise the thesis at the beginning in the sequence of an essay. This essay This is a direct reference to the genre of the writing. explicates this thesis with some illustrative examples related to intelligence and its implications for classroom teachers. Nature denotes biological and genetic influences on human ability and behaviour. Nurture denotes environmental influences on ability and behaviour. These definitions demonstrate basic conceptual knowledge. They are also sequenced early on in the essay to guide the reader's understanding throughout the essay. Strong oppositional positions This sentence shows a critical awareness of different positions that help to inform the thesis.contend that either, (a) nature determines intelligence[1] such that education will have little influence on a child’s intellectual capacity, or (b) nurture determines intelligence such that education will have a strong influence on a child’s intellectual capacity. A teacher’s general position on this issue can influence the way they perceive and respond to a child’s capacity to learn. This sentence relates to the purpose of the essay and also helps to specify the context.

The dichotomy between nature and nurture is arguably false because the concepts are relative and mutually dependentThis is a topic sentence sequenced at the beginning of a paragraph to indicate what the paragraph is about. For instance, Churchill et al. (2010) cite evidence from neurological studies[2] to support their claim that ‘nature and nurture are not dichotomous entities, but actually work in tandem to facilitate learning and shape the mind’ (p. 85). While such studies are relatively newThis fragment reveals some evaluation of sources related to the evidence they provide., they are beginning to reveal the biological processes involved in the interaction between nature and nurture. This position complements Weinberg’s (1989) claim that ‘genes do not fix behaviour . . . they establish a range of possible reactions to the range of possible experiences that the environment can provide’ (p. 101).  From an evolutionary perspective, today’s nurture will affect natural selections that appear in successive generations as tomorrow’s nature.Is this a logical argument? Logic refers to the form of reasoning that gives meaning and support to the analyses or arguments in a piece of writing. Causality refers to the strength of relationship between cause-and-effect that is used to support the analyses or arguments in a piece of writing.  For example, a society that values and nurtures logico-mathematical intelligence due to selection pressures in a particular environment (e.g., how to engineer and throw a spear to kill a woolly mammoth) may select genes related to intelligence that appear natural to successive generationsThis is an example of supporting sentences that provide elaborations, evidence, and/or examples for the main idea or thesis of the paragraph. Thus, the dichotomy between nature and nurture only appears when the concepts are compared in a single generationLinking sentences connect the idea to the main thesis and/or the next paragraph..  The dichotomy disappears, and the relativity of the two concepts is revealed when they are perceived over multiple generations.

The nature-nurture debate is traditionally significant for school teachers as it affects the scope and possibility for development and improvement in their students’ learning.  The debate is particularly significant in the context of intelligence as measured by the intelligence quotient (IQ).  For example Cohesive ties are generic words or phrases used to link different parts (e.g., ideas, sentences or sections) of a piece of writing.will a teacher who perceives logico-mathematical intelligence as hereditary still spend time and effort trying to nurture a student with low logico-mathematical intelligence?  ConverselyCriticality refers to the awareness that the writing displays about the truth and type of its claims in relation to the nature of knowledge. Terminology such as conversely, perspective, contextualised, relative, admittedly, and arguably can demonstrate a critical awareness of the limitations of the writing's claims and the multiplicity of perspectives in relation to the nature of the topic. , will a teacher who perceives logico-mathematical intelligenceTechnical language refers to words that mainly found in a particular content area or domain of knowledge. For example, logico-mathematical intelligence is used in the content area of educational psychology. as the product of nurtured effort appreciate the natural limitations and variations between different students?  The first teacher demonstrates a realist view of intelligence (you will always be what you are).  The second teacher demonstrates an idealist view of intelligence (you can be what you are not)Parallelisms (e.g., The first teacher ... The second teacher ...) help to give sentences clarity through the use of similar forms and structures.. While both perspectives have their place and role, they can be equally problematical if they are not responsive to context. Arguably, problems could arise when the teacher neglects the broader evolutionary process that transcends the confines of the perceived opposition between nature and nurture.  Admittedly, it can be difficult for teachers to judge the relative influence of nature or nurture on a child’s performance.  However, teachers who appreciate the interdependence of nature and nurture can nurture intelligence with stimulating pedagogies (e.g., problem-based learning and number games), while designing and implementing these activities with some sensitivity to the natural intellectual limits of any individual or group.

In summary, understanding that ‘today’s nurture is tomorrow’s nature’ can help teachers to balance realism and idealism. The expert teacher moves beyond merely theoretical either/or binary oppositions (i.e., nature or nurture) to a more sophisticated and contextualised approach to teaching and learning in the context of schooling.Sections are parts of a piece of writing that are recognised by the overall function they serve in relation to the purpose of the writing. This section is the conclusion which summarises the main ideas and reiterates the thesis.


Bouchard, T. J. (2004). Genetic influence on human psychological traits: A survey. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 148–151. Sources are the origins of content (e.g., data, information and knowledge) that the writer uses to inform their own ideas. Relevance describes the strength of connection between content from a source and the purpose of the writing. These sources are relevant to the topic of the essay.

Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godinho, S., Johnson, N., Keddie, A., & Letts, W. et al. (2010). Teaching: Making a difference. John Wiley.Authority describes the reliability and validity of sources used to inform the writing. This source is a textbook. It would probably be better to use the actual studies mentioned as sources, rather than textbook.

Weinberg, R. A. (1989). Intelligence and IQ: Landmark issues and great debates. American Psychologist, 44, 98-104. Authority describes the reliability and validity of sources used to inform the writing. The source is relevant and still has authority but a more current source would be better if available.

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