Earlier this summer, I pledged to take some time off but to also get myself re-organized and put back together in a way that was functional but more importantly good for my teaching and good for my students. One idea that I had socked away for later was revising my rubrics when I revisited some assignments I wanted to change up. They just never seemed to be good enough and by that I mean thorough enough. I never feel like all of my students really grasp what they, as individuals, need to do to improve their papers and hit the target. And, I’ll admit it: I HATE MAKING RUBRICS. HATE. IT. There, the truth is out.
While cruising Facebook this summer, I came across a link that a friend of mine (and fellow teacher) had shared: “Your rubric is a hot mess, and here’s how to fix it” by Jennifer Gonzalez. Umm, yes this is true,
*click*, no hesitation. WHOA! Life changing, game changing, world moving! This lady had me at hello! If you haven’t already met, allow me to introduce you: Frazzled Teacher meet Single Point Rubric. You’re welcome.
Now, I will admit, at first I was skeptical. Maybe some students really need all of that information laid out in ascending order so they can revise.. however, in my experience with both analytic and holistic rubrics: I write comments on all of my students’ papers in addition to the circled portions (or assigned level) of the rubric. If we look at the single point rubric set-up, I essentially do the left and right columns with my comments throughout their paper. The benefits I see in the Single Point Rubric set-up are: the expectation for proficiency is clearly laid out and it is the obvious target, no distractions; if an area is not being met, feedback for improvement is provided; if an area is being exceeded, feedback to challenge a student further can be provided. It is all in one place and clearly organized.
My students all have the opportunity to revise their papers but that doesn’t necessarily mean they heed my comments written throughout their papers. They often go to the rubric, work to discern the nuances between score X and score X and then come to see me. My first question is: “Did you read through the comments to see what you did well and the places where I recommended some specific improvements?” Answer: “Um, well no not really.” Some, including myself in my early years of teaching, would argue “well then the rubric isn’t specific enough, you need to create a better rubric.” I’ve tried but it ends up being a rubric so filled with “and/or,” “(s),” and language like “somewhat,” or “very few” that it becomes a hindrance in providing meaningful feedback instead of the powerful tool to boost learning and growth that it could be.
I will also admit part of my struggle in writing rubrics is because I never saw the point in spending hours detailing all the ways a student could do the assignment wrong. Our goal is growth and learning. Meeting or Exceeding Standard. Why would I lay out a clear path of how to not meet standard? Why spend hours defining all of the possible ways to fail? I feel time could be better spent providing individual students targeted and specific feedback on how they can improve and meet standard in a format they might actually read. An example could be:
I am in the process of revising some of the rubrics I have used in the past to see what it could look like for me and for my students. I see some great potential here for using the language of the CCSS but as the photo example shows, the language will need some adjusting. I also see potential as a tool that could be convenient for collecting data for TPEP purposes.
Most importantly however, I see a tool for increasing my conversations with students around their individual needs and achievements. I see opportunity for growth and learning, as well as individual goal setting related to skills instead of grades. With less language to get distracted by on the rubric, I am hoping students will be more likely to read what is actually there. With less wiggle room in interpreting vague circles, I am hoping students will take note of the comments (now all in one place) and incorporate those ideas into their revisions.