Part of teaching is assessing. It’s not the best part – that is special morning tea day in the staffroom – but it’s an important part because without assessment neither you, nor your students, know where and how they’re improving. And for me the humble rubric is the champion of assessment tools. Let me tell you why (come on, you knew this was coming).
Rubrics are appropriate for both formative and summative assessment, often helping you achieve both at the same time. This is because rubrics clearly detail success criteria, allowing you both to assess how well a student has taken in the content of the unit, while also showing a student what they can do to improve their learning.
Rubrics allow students to map their successes. I like to have students indicate on the rubric where they currently feel they’re sitting in relation to the success criteria, and then mark where they would like to achieve for the given assignment. The emphasis here is on Personal Bests. In an ideal world, education would not be a competitive arena.
Co-operation and Transparency
Building rubrics in collaboration with your students means that the criteria by which they’re being assessed is completely transparent. It’s useful to provide students with exemplars of of different levels of work, and then working together to identify the key features of each, and how they could be achieved. It can also feed back into student self-efficacy, because they can self-identify the levels where they’re currently achieving, and how to progress from there.
Marking student work is a time suck – even if you don’t factor in the time it takes to haul 25 A6 posters from the classroom, to your desk, and back again (not to mention when you mislay them and you spend two days searching for them but they’re gone, gone I tell you, and what are you going to do now? Not that I would know about that) – and as curriculums become more crowded, the time for thoughtful marking becomes even tighter. Rubrics, however, help you to claw back time.
Because the success criteria is clear, and spelt out, there’s no guess work involved, and no room for argument. It’s also clear where students fall in terms of a grade, if you’re using the rubric in a summative assessment. Finally, you don’t need to provide as detailed notes, because where and how a student has achieved is clearly indicated. In contrast to other assessment types, like tests or essays without a rubric, rubrics clearly make the task of assessment straight forward.
Rubrics have been around for a good while now, but while they’re not new and shiny they’re still one of the best tools in your teacher toolkit for assessing student learning, building self-efficacy, and streamlining your marking.