New Canaan High School educators whose last name begins with the letter A-R author this blog.
Those whose last name begins with S-Z author nchsneasc13b

Thursday, March 15, 2012

About Your Friend, the Rubric

Ever feel shackled by a rubric? Like rubrics are trying to drive a wedge between you and your students? NCHS teacher, unchain yourself! Rubrics don’t have that kind of power.

Rubric is one of those words that has a bum rap; just ask any teacher who knew that a project was a C+ when the rubric insisted it was a B. But perception isn’t reality, and rubrics aren’t just for assessment anymore.

More importantly, rubrics are for communication.

Think about it: we want kids to be effective problem solvers, clear communicators, responsible and productive collaborators, among other things. We also need to teach our course content. How do we know how to connect the important content we teach to the important skills they need to learn? Simple: listen to the rubric.

The bullet points in those boxes are the places where our learning expectations reside. They articulate skills that we have always assumed we were teaching, and they show us something we might not have known: that social studies teachers are asking kids to collaborate the same way they do in an engineering class; that science teachers are demanding the same clear communication as English teachers.

By breaking those skills into their constituent parts, and naming those parts, what we teach becomes clearer to us. And by sharing those expectations with students, they know exactly what they should know. That’s communication, baby.

Then, when students hand in their work, we use the rubric to let them know where they are in their understanding of our learning expectations, and give them a chance to tell us how they plan to improve. So the cycle of communication between teachers and students, with the rubric as common ground, continues to clarify and specify exactly what we want students to achieve.

And we all live happily ever after.

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