Rubrics and Success?

This week in Assessment and Evaluation (ECS 410) we had a presentation by Cori Antonini, regarding rubrics and his development of a Rubric-making App. The presentation was interesting, and Cori had a lot of information to share with us from his time as a teacher, administrator, and researcher. While listening to Cori go through outcomes, indicators, marking guides, and possible goals for each rubric, I found myself wondering: Is the benefit to Rubrics the same for teachers as it is for students?

Rubrics are meant to inform students of exactly what is expected of them for a task, and how they need to meet that expectation. Q: What kinds of questions will students develop about assignments if their questions about what and how are covered in the Rubric? (Perhaps more space for higher-level thinking!)

As I have gone through the Education program I have discovered (through my own realization and through feedback from my professors) that we are not trying to trick out students. We never want to surprise them with extra information or a topic we haven’t examined. This discovery has allowed me to better understand the place and purpose of rubrics in the classroom. When I was in high school, and in most of my university classes, rubrics were handed out with our marks. They were not a tool to guide learning, but a way of justifying marks to students. Today we realize the detriment of that strategy; How can students meet or exceed the expectations of teachers if they are never told what the teacher expects? It is crazy to challenge students to get exceptional grades when they are not told what a teacher wants from them.

Another realization I have had about using rubrics is my own tendency to stray from outcomes in the curriculum. Developing the rubric for a project requires us to focus on the specific, direct, curricular outcomes that are required of each student in each task. This is a concrete way to connect lessons to units to assignments to assessment. It is key that we do not stray from the real goals for learning, and that we stay away from skills that are not explicit in the curriculum. For example, in Social Studies there is no outcome that says that students have to be able to write an essay. Having an assignment focus on the students’ ability to write an essay would stray from the outcomes, and may interfere with the higher levels of learning that we are seeking to reach in our classrooms. Developing a rubric that represents the curriculum is key in student success, and the quality of our work as teachers. Q: Is there a need to teach essay-writing or other skills that are not outlined in the curriculum.

As my group and I continue our work on our unit assessment plan we hope to not only understand the goals of the curriculum, but also find interesting, valuable ways of assessing and providing the feedback that students deserve.

Weekly Readings:

Chapter 3: Beginning with the End in Mind (Davies)
Chapter 4: Describing Success (Davies)




One thought on “Rubrics and Success?

  1. Nerdodactyl says:

    Hey Emily,
    You made a lot of great points in this post and I agree with what you say so I’m gonna do my best to answer, or at least give you my opinion, for the questions you asked.

    Q1: Is the benefit to Rubrics the same for teachers as it is for students? I believe so, at least with how I use rubrics. When I used a rubric, or a rating scale for that matter, I use it as a tool for not only me to gain understanding of where the student is at with their understanding regarding something but I also use it as a tool to show a student where they are and where they need to go. I recently had a university assignment where we had to mark math problems using a rubric and it was an interesting experience because instead of just looking at if the answer was right or wrong I had to think about the student’s logic behind how they tackled the problem and it was just natural with the rubric to move the focus from right and wrong to actually looking at how the student was thinking about the problem and how they came to a solution. Pairing a rubric with a ‘dear student’ letter I think is also important because that will tell the student what they need to know or give them the information that is highlighted in the rubric in terms of what they did well and how they can improve to reach their learning goals. I think the biggest mistake you can make with a rubric is putting a mark on it because students will just look at that and ignore the feedback.

    Q2: What kinds of questions will students develop about assignments if their questions about what and how are covered in the Rubric? (Perhaps more space for higher-level thinking!)
    Looking back to my marking math with a rubric assignment I did a few weeks back I can tell if the students were given the rubric before tackling the problems they all could have hit the level of meeting expectations. Something very common I saw was that because the students didn’t have the rubric beforehand they did what they thought was enough which in most cases caused students to have 1 or 2 areas that fell into the beginning or progressing levels, with very few getting up to the exceeding level.

    Q3: Is there a need to teach essay-writing or other skills that are not outlined in the curriculum.
    We have a similar discussion in mathematics education, should we ‘teach’ (make kids memorize) the multiplication tables or is it good enough for them to understand the process of multiplication and be able to know it works and be able to do it. I personally think that if you know how multiplication works and can do it you are fine, you don’t need to memorize the multiplication tables. However more traditional teachers think that yes students need to memorize the tables and even a lot of parents think their children should have to learn them simply because they had to at that age. While I see the importance of being able to write an essay if a student is going to be going to post secondary education the fact of the matter is that most kids don’t go. I think it would be far more beneficial to just teach students how to communicate their thoughts effectively since no matter what they go on to do after high school being able to communicate one’s thoughts and opinions in a clear and effective manner is a skill everyone can benefit from learning, be it oral communication, writing a tweet or status update, or even writing an essay, email or letter.


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