Today's Blog: Effective Rubrics
Does the type of rubric below look familiar to you? It's an adjective driven rubric where a descriptive statement is written in the right hand column providing an overview of what excellent work for each criteria looks like. This statement is then cut and pasted into the preceeding columns and the key adjective is changed, usually from excellent to very good, very good to good, good to satisfactory and so on. But was is the difference between very good and good? What do these vague evaluative statements actually mean?
The example above is a Year 12 Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) rubric for a persuasive language analysis task. Rubrics such as these are put together with good intentions, but they are based on the assumption that there is a clear continuum from low quality work to high quality work, that every piece of work which is at a certain point along the continuum is there for the same reason and that adjectives are a useful tool for assessing distinctions between work along this continuum. In reality, we know as teachers that none of these things are true. So what can we do instead? The opposite of an adjective driven rubric is an attribute checklist. An example of a text response attribute checklist can be seen below (and downloaded here).
An important difference in approach between putting together an adjective driven rubric and an attribute checklist is that whereas the adjective driven rubric is written before student work is assessed and is based on teacher assumptions about what students will do, the attribute checklist is developed after reading student work (the more work the better). The checklist process is based on reading through a set of student work (say 25 essays), dividing the work into three categories (high quality, medium quality and low quality - though other categories such as above standard, at standard and below standard could also be used), and then listing the attributes of high, medium and low quality pieces. This list then becomes the checklist which is used to assess future student work. Every time more student work is assessed, the checklist is refined to ensure it is actually listing what students are doing at each level. There are obvious benefits the checklist approach has over the adjective driven rubric. Firstly, the checklist provides a much more practical resource for students to work out exactly what they need to do and exactly where they are if they're assessing a draft effort; secondly, the checklist provides specific feedback to the teacher about what students are and aren't doing and what the teacher needs to target in future teaching.
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