Currently reading: “Teaching with rubrics: the good, the bad, and the ugly” (Andrade, 2005)

Doing my reading for the monthly iEarth journal club… Thanks for suggesting yet another interesting article, Kirsty! This one is “Teaching with rubrics: the good, the bad, and the ugly” (Andrade, 2005) — a great introduction on how to work with rubrics (and only 2.5 pages of entertaining, easy-to-read text, plus an example rubric). My summary of the article:

Rubrics can be very useful tools not just as scoring rubrics that a teacher uses to assign grades, but as an instructional tool that supports peer-, self- or teacher-assessment or -feedback, that students potentially are involved in creating, giving them ownership over the learning outcomes and assessment criteria while also clarifying what good work would actually look like. The article is structured around “the good, the bad, and the ugly” mentioned in its title.

The good is that that having to develop rubrics helps us as teachers to become very clear about what we actually want students to be able to do, and what good (and not-so-good, and bad) work looks like. Referring to the rubric when giving feedback also saves a lot of time as compared to having to come up with explanations for what is good and what isn’t for each individual student work. And having explicit criteria also makes it easier to measure all students against the same set of criteria.

If we are clear about the learning outcomes, that makes it easier to teach in alignment with them, too. Similarly, rubrics help students focus their efforts towards what we actually want them to focus on. And it makes it a lot easier for them to see where they are at relative to what would make their work ok, or excellent, or not sufficiently good, and thus adjust their efforts.

The bad is that rubrics, even co-created ones, are of course not self-explanatory, so students might need some support in figuring out how to work with them so they use the rubrics as tools to improve their work and don’t just see them as the teacher’s cryptic scoring checklist. But investing a bit of time on this typically helps substantially improve student work, so maybe it isn’t too bad?

The ugly is that just because a teacher has a rubric, that does not make the assessment consistent or accurate or fair. To make it valid, the skills being assessed need to actually align with what is required in the curriculum. To make it reliable, different raters need to come to the same assessment using the same rubric on the same student work. There can also be no bias introduced with respect to student gender or any other student characteristic. Asking a colleague to co-score some work and asking them for feedback on the rubric can help improve a rubric, as can observing how students actually work with the rubrics. And then the “ugly” is probably greatly reduced!

And that’s the article! I love a good short overview, so this article definitely goes on my
“recommended reading” list. Plus a good example rubric in the table, too!

And why a wave picture with this post? Because it was actually a beautiful, bright, sunny day on Saturday when I took the picture, but the wrong settings on my camera somehow made it look dark and a bit threatening. Which is basically the main message of the article: using a tool the wrong way can make the outcome bad, or even ugly… That, and I just like waves :-D

Heidi Goodrich Andrade (2005) Teaching With Rubrics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, College Teaching, 53:1,27-31, DOI: 10.3200/CTCH.53.1.27-31

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