A colleague recently sent me a link to an article by Jennifer Gonzalez from a year ago entitled, “Your Rubric is a Hot Mess; Here’s How to Fix It.” In this piece, Gonzalez makes the case for a single-column rubric focusing on the criteria that lead students to reach the standard a teacher is looking to assess.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been hot and cold on rubrics. When I came into teaching almost 20 years ago, rubrics were the rage. Good rubrics give good teachers a direction and a focus to instruction. Presented to students in the right way they may help guide students to what they need to do to hit particular performance targets.
At one point in my early teaching, an experienced teacher said to me, “You’d be a fool not to use a rubric.” Here, the philosophy seemed less, “It’s good for students,” and more, “How do you justify grades without one? You’re opening yourself to lots of problems from students and parents.”
I’ve read Maja Wilson’s Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment, which provides strong argument for moving away from rubrics. After reading her book, I don’t think I used rubrics for a year. I don’t remember having problems with parents about justifying grades, and much of my writing instruction went on the same, and with similar results from my students.
I’m back to using rubrics. Using online tools like Canvas or Turnitin make rubrics easier because you can build an electronic rubric and use it in a drop-down menu format.
After reading Gonzalez’ piece, I decided to put together two single-point rubrics for my English 101 class, which I teach to juniors and seniors at the high school level. One of the rubrics is for the process work submitted for a writing project, and the other is for the writing project itself. Here’s what they look like:
While certainly still in beta, I hope that when I roll these out next week to my students, I can help them to focus on the key skills and standards I’m looking for in this first project.