Google is smarter than you. You are no longer the doorway students pass through to access information. That is a fact. Face it.
So, what do you offer beyond what Google provides? How do you add value to your content knowledge? What is your role in a student’s life? Are you necessary or a hindrance to learning? Are you doing what machines can do better and more cheaply?
Researcher Sugatra Mitri has shown that teachers often restrict the growth of students, rather than enhance their learning experiences. He left a computer on a street corner in India and watched children teach themselves just fine without a highly-paid teacher with long summer vacations talking at them.
Are you leading your students, following them, or should you just get out of their way? These are tough questions for teachers to deal with. The stark reality is that the industrial revolution is over.
Students no longer need to sit in long rows of uncomfortable chairs, with loud bells declaring a shift change every fifty minutes. They do not have to shuffle like cattle through crowded hallways just to arrive at another lifeless room filled with fluorescent lights and more rows of uncomfortable chairs.
We are no longer lords over groups of compliant kids dependent upon us for their personal development. If they find us necessary, they will use us as a resource. If we prove ourselves irrelevant to them, they will look around and find other resources that can get them to where they want to go in life.
If they can go to Harvard for free, then why would they listen to us for money? We no longer have a monopoly on their minds. They are not here to serve us. We are here to serve them.
Teachers can complain about the lack of justice in the political world of education all day long. The problem is that nobody cares.
Students want easy access to high quality teachers who can help them understand and give context to the sum total of all human knowledge they daily browse on the internet. For this they will pay.
One way we can help students manage and make judgments about knowledge is to create rubrics. Regardless of the desired learning task, rubrics give teachers and students the chance to define quality and clarify what knowledge is necessary to complete a certain task at a given level of quality.
Rubrics create a common vocabulary for teachers and students to discuss the quality and reliability of knowledge they access and create. They offer a sliding scale which can be used to articulate our level of understanding or competence of a learning goal.
They can serve to guide the development of our understanding of general concepts or specific elements of a complex idea. They can help us apply knowledge learned from one assignment to another.
Researchers assert that, “Rubrics improve achievement if designed and used well […] an additional 30 to 40 percentile points on a standardized test. This size gain would have moved the United States from 21st place to the top 5 on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study”.
The possibility of increasing academic achievement by 30 percent challenges us to learn how to use rubrics within our classrooms for formative assessment. Formative assessment is also known as assessment for learning, while sumative assessment is called assessment of learning.
“Assessment for learning seeks to use the assessment process and products to improve student learning. We contrast it with assessment of learning, which seeks to report the status of a given student at a point in time”.
Researchers Judith Arter and Jan Chappuis also explain that, “Use of rubrics to grade is assessment of learning”, while “Teacher use of rubrics to help students understand the achievement targets they are to hit, plan instruction, and give descriptive feedback to students is assessment for learning”.
Assessment for learning also includes, “student use of rubrics to clarify what quality work looks like, self-assess, set goals for next steps in instruction and communicate with others about their projects”.
Our first step as teachers is to determine if we are assessing for or of learning. Once we determine that, we must decide if we are judging a piece of work as a whole, or if we are examining the component parts of the student work.
If we want to judge how good a work product or performance is overall, then we create a holistic rubric. If we want to judge the quality of each element of the work, then we create an analytic rubric.
We then turn our attention to whether we create a task-specific rubric used for a single assignment, or whether we create a general rubric that can be used to judge quality across similar tasks. For example, most International Baccalaureate rubrics are general and can be used for a variety of assignments.
Once we determine if a rubric is formative or summative, holistic or analytic, general or task-specific, we can begin building our rubric for the learning targets of an assignment. There are four kinds of learning tasks: knowledge acquisition, reasoning proficiencies, performance skills and creating products.
Learning targets are also called standards. Each content area has a set of standards for which student achievement must be assessed. The Common Core State Standards are the latest set of ever-changing targets that teachers are supposed to get students to hit.
Each standard is broken down into component parts called criteria or traits. For each trait, levels of proficiency are determined, with accompanying descriptors that describe what behaviors indicate a student is at a certain level of proficiency.
A rubric is required for any assessment that asks students to perform or create a product, or when they must construct a written response. Arter and Chappuis say that a general, analytic rubric is best for judging reasoning proficiencies, performance skill, and product learning targets.
They believe a rubric is not necessary to assess independent pieces of knowledge. The recall of factual information is best assessed with multiple-choice, true-false, matching and short answer.
This brief description or rubrics is not comprehensive. Each of us should read literature that details the best use of rubrics. The book by Arter and Chappuis is an excellent choice among many.
It is in our best interest to incorporate rubrics into our instruction. Now that Google plays such an important role in education, we need to justify our existence by adding value to the learning experiences of our students.
Creating rubrics is one way we can introduce clear judgments about quality into our curriculum and Increase the quality of interaction we have with our students.
Arter, Judith A. Chappuis, Jan. Creating & Recognizing Quality Rubrics. Boston: Pearson, 2006.