Who does it work for, students or teachers?

The other day I posted about rubrics vs. feedback and I got some push back that made me think. First I would like to clarify a couple of points. I would never dream of assigning grades without some kind of rubric. Rubrics are a great tool for assigning grades. The conversation I had with this administrator put into question how valuable rubrics are to students, how effective they are in promoting student growth.

That is the question I would like to explore here, and I would love any feedback or thinking any of you might have on the subject as I consider this merely an exploration, nothing that I am firmly tied to.

I had a conversation with a colleague after the last post I wrote. In our conversation we discussed who the two work for: students or teachers?┬áHere’s where we landed:

  • Rubrics work for teachers. They might be used as a diagnostic to determine where students are in a given moment in their skill base. They might also be used as a formative assessment to determine which skills need to be retaught or reengaged. They work to speed the grading process so that teachers are focused on just the parts that have been taught, or that need to be assessed. They also speed up summative assessments, and give students some feedback on where they are in skill level.
  • Checklists work for students during writing. Giving ┬ástudents a check list as they work through a piece of writing helps them acknowledge what will be graded according to the rubric. Checklists are a form of self assessments that might help students engage and reaffirm their practice. The hope with checklists is that they will assist students to understand the complex parts they will be graded.
  • Feedback works for students after writing. The type of feedback teachers offer students will come from the rubric. The intention of feedback is to move the writer. I think of Lucy Calkins approach that when we offer students feedback, it should be something that they might remember to do in their writing a year from now.

So in putting this lens on rubrics, feedback, and checklists, it becomes clear that some work for teachers and others work for students. It seems that we need to be very clear about our intention in using these tools. I had not thought about the use of checklists for many years until my colleague mentioned them. This might be a great way to bridge the use of rubrics for teachers and the need students have to understand not just their feedback, but also why they are earning the grade they earn on any piece of writing.

Rubrics vs. Feedback: What’s the Difference

  • What is the role of rubrics in your classroom?
  • How are rubrics different than feedback?

I had an interesting discussion yesterday that has me thinking about these questions, and I am curious what all of you think. This person said that he is not sure he believes in rubrics any more because students get them back and do not know what it is they need to do to improve. So if they don’t have clear indicators (for instance, transitions are unclear), students walk away unclear how to grow from the experience.

The point I made is that rubrics are to create an ability to put a grade in the gradebook, while the feedback we give students creates a place for growth. The feedback I give my students may or may not be on the rubric when I hand back a piece of writing. Feedback creates a space for relearning, redoing, and quite possibly rewriting, while a rubric is a grade. I’m curious what your thoughts are about this?

I have a friend who I talked to today who teaches at a different school who told me how she has a gradeless classroom. She sets up her gradebook with 50% completion/in-process grades and 50% growth. She has a portfolio conference with students at the end of the semester to decide on their growth grade together. She gives students a ton of feedback both in conferences as well as on their writing.

She said that it gets tricky with those students who wait until the last minute to do assignments…but isn’t this true any way? Don’t those students struggle to turn things in no matter what we do to help them?