Rubrics as an Assessment Tool

plant growing
Taken from pixabay.com

During last week’s class we had a presentation from Cory Antonini who is the owner and developer of Digital Learner Solutions. This is a free site/app that has two main purposes: to help teachers build units as well as rubrics. The rubric maker can be done on any Android or Apple product and even contain’s speech-to-text technology to make the job that much easier. The rubric portion of his app takes a new approach to rubrics than I have seen before. The rubrics are designed using the desired outcome (either Saskatchewan, Ontario or Treaty Education) and having 4 levels in meeting it: level one-beginning; level two- progressing; level three- meeting; and level 4- established. In the examples he had shown us, he had only filled in level three- meeting, as described by the outcome, and left the other levels with only their title (ex. progressing, established, and beginning). This was nice to see that, depending on what it is being used for, you don’t need to have ever level filled in- this is great because it’s a very time consuming process in which students don’t always end up reading anyways.

It was also very interesting in the discussion we had about established vs. exceeding. Many of the rubrics that I have been given in my education have used the word exceeding as their level four title. This created two opinions that were both negative to my learning. First, I was upset that I had to exceed the task/lesson that was expected of me to get full marks. Shouldn’t exceeding be worth 110% instead? The second problem I had with it was that it completely took away my motivation to reach that level. I would be satisfied with my work if I met the outcome being asked.

The next beneficial discussion we had was deciding what we thought each level looked like. What was the difference in work that resulted in a progressing rather than meeting? What did being established in an outcome even look like? This seemed to be somewhat defined but also at the discretion of the teacher. Based on the discussion, and my own understandings, I currently believe the levels to be defined as:

1. Beginning- the student is still learning the main idea/concept and requires teacher assistance. Without help, the student would not be able to reach the outcome.

2. Progressing- the student is on their way to meeting the outcome but still requires assistance. The quality isn’t as expected but shows the student has some grasp on the concept.

3. Meeting- the student reaches the outcome with little teacher assistance in an acceptable quality.

4. Established- the student can reach the outcome independently, in good quality, and could teach it to other students successfully.

This is important because students can become confused if one teacher’s idea of meeting an outcome and being established is different from another.

The format of Cory’s rubrics are done in “I can” statements which results in student-friendly and easily understandable language. Although this does require time by the educator for some decoding, both the teacher and student will benefit from these statements. This is a similar understanding to what the magazine, “The Science Teacher”, has as they state “rubrics need to be designed to direct the teacher and the student to the outcome in language that the student can understand” (K. Jensen, May 1995). If the students are unable to understand the rubric then it is pointless to be given to them prior. Likewise, I believe students should know what is expected of them beforehand so they are able to set goals they can work towards.

The discussion we had in Cory’s presentation had broadened my understanding of rubrics and left me feeling more excited about using rubrics in my future classroom. Not only can it show snapshots of where students are in their understanding, but it also can show progression if the same rubric is used repeatedly (Cory had stated he would use different colored pens to show the progression of the students’ knowledge). Anne Davies, in her textbook “Making Classroom Assessment Work”, compares these progressive snapshots to height marks on the door; both show a student growing whether it be physically or intellectually (p. 80).

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