mardi 25 octobre 2011

The Importance of Rubric Language

For years, I have struggled with the value of rubrics. A well respected colleague of mine told me they were very limiting. When we add descriptors that quantify the information rather than qualify it, the value of the statement given by the student is justified merely by being there rather than by being accurate. Rubrics are not wrong. The language can merely be the obstacle that prevents students from learning from their experiences.

Jan Chappuis describes 3 types of rubric language in her "Seven Strategies" document. I have summarized the ideas below:

1. Descriptive Language

  • Ex: Display of information is accurate, mostly complete, and is mostly organized so that it is easy to interpret. It may have one or two small omissions.
2. Evaluative Language
  • Ex: Good display of information.
3. Quantitative Language
  • Displays three pieces of information.
In the descriptive language rubric, the student knows what he or she has done well and what needs to be improved. It is measurable in a way that the student can understand how to advance their own learning. 

Evaluative language lets the student know they did well. It does not, however, specify how the student has succeeded or what steps need to be taken in order to change the descriptor from good to excellent. 

Quantitative language limits the measure of the work to a number of items included in the work. It is not even clear if these items are accurate or noteworthy. Again, there is no direction for improvement.

It is obvious that it takes descriptive language to involve the student in his or her own assessment. It invites the student to be responsible for his or her own learning and to take the necessary steps to advance that learning. This encourages not only better grades, which are secondary at best, but also skills that will transfer to other areas of learning for this grade and any learning that follows, in or out of school.

dimanche 23 octobre 2011

Back to Portland

We are headed back to Portland for another ATI conference. How lucky am I to work in a division that values the work we do and supports the professional development we are willing to pursue in order to better our practices and the learning experiences of our students?

The November conference will focus on "Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning", by Jan Chappuis. I am plugging away at it so that I have a working knowledge of it before attending. So far, I have found that many of her theories and recommended practices are already a part of my belief system.

Much of what I am reading has already been shared with us at the Summer Institute with Rick Stiggins. This alone makes it a quicker read. I am continually confirming that I am on the right track with these strategies and that whether or not I knew why I was using them, they were based on sound research. What reinforces it for me now is that by reading the "WHY", the "HOW" becomes more purposeful.

I love the idea of developing assessment criteria with my students. The problem I encounter with this one is that it is very time consuming. In a school year where every minute counts towards covering as many of the curricular outcomes as possible, I am challenged with the value of the class time required to make this strategy worthwhile. I mentioned this same concern to Tom Schimmer at the Summer Institute and his reply (although based in a high school philosophy) was that at times, this criteria is given to the students and worked on from there. We simply do not have the time to invest in this step as in depth as we would like.

The contrast between a learning goal vs. a performance goal was also helpful to consider. I had never really differentiated between the two before, but it is important for the students to understand what they are LEARNING even more so than what they are DOING.