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One Level "Rubrics"

Page history last edited by LCI, Ltd. 5 years, 9 months ago

Over on my blog, I poked at the linguistic challenges in education AKA jargon. "Rubrics" is, unfortunately, one of the words that's used with no clear, final answer as to what it is meant by the word. For the purpose of this wiki, we define a quality rubric as a tool that helps students self-assess their work against various degrees of quality. (More on our definition here.)

 

Before getting into specific tools, I want to step back and position rubrics fit in the big picture of student learning.

  1. We ask students to make, create, engage in, learn, or otherwise do something. 
  2. They do it to the best of their ability.
  3. We give them feedback.
  4. They do it better (hopefully). 

Rubrics, checklists, hybrid rubrics, Likert scales - these are tools designed to help students self-assess after Step 2. In other words, all of these tools are about letting students take stock without having to wait for an adult. For us, this is their key driver and purpose. (Use rubrics for grades? Peep this.)

 

The self-assessment tool that Jennifer Gonzalez uses with students is FANTASTIC. It reduces the noise students see. It allows the teacher to focus on one column. It eliminates one of rubrics greatest challenges: too many words. Jennifer and I have exchanged a few tweets about it and I shared my struggle with the label of "single-point rubric" with her. The tool has incredible strengths. Its main drawback, though, it requires input from someone else to be effective. That, for me, is what pulls it out of the sub-category of "rubric" and into the larger category of student self-assessment tools. 

 

Rubrics' ability to support students' independent self-reflection is, at their heart, their job. Which leads me to the Genius Hour Rubric. I made a crack on Twitter about the temptation to wander through the comments section yelling that it wasn't really a rubric and my tweet, thankfully, was received in the lighthearted way it was intended and MiddleWeb, who tweeted it out, connected me to the tool's authors. They were incredibly gracious about my snark and I wanted to use this space to share some additional thinking about the tool.

 

Denise, one of the authors, shared that the students write the descriptors and it's never used to grade - two traits of quality rubrics. The first column, the dimensions, includes definitions and clarifications so the students know what it means. Another way it demonstrates traits of a quality rubric is that the lowest level works to balance what the student is doing with what they're not doing to make it easier for them to find themselves. 

 

There are a few things about the tool, though, that make it more "self-assessment tool" than rubric. Which, again, isn't inherently a bad thing. We use all sorts of tools to take stock of situations and this is a great one for figuring out genius hour. Rather, for it to be a full blown rubric, some tweaking might be in order.

 

First, let's start with the levels - listed here as Level 5 ("Yes, I'm getting it!") and Level 1 ("Not yet!"). As an outside reader, I'm struggling a bit with the language of the levels. If Level 1 is "Not yet" does that make 2 "Almost there", 3 "Practically there" and 4 "Nearly there"? One of the traits of a quality rubric is that levels match the task at hand. So one way to address this is to consider text labels. For example:

 

Quality Genius Second Participant Genius Minute Participant Genius Hour Participant  Genius Hour Guide Genius Hour Mentor
Ambiguity - I’m OK with a little confusion, knowing there is more than one way to do the job.   I have to be told exactly how to do every job. There is only one right way to do the job.     I don’t need to ask the teacher a lot of questions. I can think for myself and get the job done.  

 

You likely noticed that I flipped around the order. I explain in more detail here why but basically, in English we read left to right and in base 10, we communicate getting bigger (or better) by moving to the right. When we flip it around, we ask students to, in effect, think backwards. The other thing you may have noticed is that I shifted the highest level (5) down to the 4th level. The reason for this is that it's helpful for students to know what it looks like to go beyond our expectations. 

 

To make it a full blown quality rubric, I'd need to add text to each box to help students understand what we're looking for. The beauty of Denise's and Gallit's tool, though, is it's clarity. To add all of that text might clutter it up. The tool can remain a quality self-assessment tool, though, without it. For example, we could present this to students:

 

 

Genius Second Participant

Genius Minute Participant

Genius Hour Participant

Genius Hour Guide

Genius Hour Mentor

 

I'm a beginner at this. I'm just starting to figure this out.  

I think I'm getting this.  I feel more comfortable.

I've got this. I have this figured out.

I've pushed myself and can help others figure it out. 

I’ve got this and can help others push themselves.

Where are you on the continuum? Put an x in the box that matches where you are.

Ambiguity - I’m OK with a little confusion, knowing there is more than one way to do the job.  

 

 

 

I don’t need to ask the teacher a lot of questions. I can think for myself and get the job done.

 

Inquisitiveness - I ask questions and want answers.

 

 

 

I am curious and I look up things that interest me. I’m a lifelong learner.

 

 

 

(I only did two of the dimensions here but the same structure could hold for all of them.) I bolded the level that matches Denise, Gallit, and students' expectations for doing Genius Hour "right." Another possibility is to provide students with a full-blown quality rubric at the beginning of the year and then give them a version with blank cells for marking as the year progresses. 

 

After all of that - I have not yet been voted "The Grand Designator and Anointer of Rubrics" and recognize that what we call it is much less important than how students use it or how it helps them. I will put forth the claim, though, that as we get better as a profession at designing tools for students to use, the clearer we can be with our labels and designations, the better off, I suspect, we'll be in the long run.

Quality

Genius Second Participant

Genius Minute Participant

Genius Hour Participant 

Genius Hour Guide

Genius Hour Mentor

Ambiguity - I’m OK with a little confusion, knowing there is more than one way to do the job.  

I'm a beginner at this. I'm just starting to figure this out.  

I think I'm getting this.  I feel more comfortable.

I've got this. I have this figured out.

I've pushed myself and can help others figure it out. 

I’ve got this and can help others push themselves.

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