Before I abolished grades, I went through my rubrics stage. I was convinced I could solve my assessment problems if I could just fine-tune my rubric production. I struggled for months trying to create 'student-proof' rubrics that would allow me to consistantly assess their learning. I can't say that the time I spent on rubrics was a waste - because I learned a lot - but what I learned is that rubrics have little to no place in the classroom.
Here is a sample rubric that I would have used years ago to assess writing:
Something about the numbers always bothered me. I found that making the choice for what something would be out of was a huge deal, as it very much affected the grade my students ended up with.
I struggled with what each category should be scored out of. I knew that I wanted to keep the number small. For example, I certainly didn't want to have each category out of 100. I was not interested in trying to differentiate between a 67 and a 68.
For some reason, making these categories out of 4 or 5 or 10 seemed to be a popular way to go. But to this day, I have not reconciled some of the problems that developed from choosing the 4, 5 or 10 scale.
Take a look:
Do you have a preference? If you do, I'm dying to know which one you prefer and why.
As far as I'm concerned there is no choice and here's why:
If I pick the four scale, there is nothing in between 75% and 100% which means that in order to get 'honors' (over 80%), I have to assign a perfect grade.
If I pick the four scale, there is nothing in between barely passing 50% and 75%. That's a large leap.
- If I pick the five scale, it is awfully tempting to just pick 60% as it is a pretty average grade that lots of kids might fit.
If I pick the five scale, there is nothing between 40% and 60%, so someone who I'm not comfortable with getting 80% will get the same 3/5 mark as someone I was not comfortable with giving a 40% failing grade.
I guess I could give half marks with these 4 and 5 scales. But where do I draw the line. Would it ever be appropriate to give quarter marks?
If we can agree that reducing learning to a symbol is a kind of malpractice then we can start to discuss how we can replace grading with something far better. And then we need to stop talking about grading altogether and focus our real efforts on real learning.
It's been five years since I used a rubric. I simply don't need them, nor do my students.
For more on abolishing grades, check out this page.