Maybe I need to rethink my rubrics…Yikes. One of the many reasons I joined this cohort is that I feel I don’t have a clear path/curriculum to teach or assess student writing. In an effort to be fair I have created rubrics for students to follow. My idea was that this helps clarify – to myself AND to my students – what I am looking for in their writing. The rubrics help me to be more objective when grading. After reading Kohn’s forward in Rethinking Rubrics I greatly question how I teach and assess writing. I love the quote “consistent and uniform standards are admirable, and maybe even workable, when we’re talking about, say, the manufacture of DVD players” (p XII). Ah! I always felt this (agreement in assessing…or evaluating) is what we needed to aim for – hence the rubric. How fair is it for me to give a student one grade while a colleague might give that student a totally different grade? But as Kohn points out, when students follow a rubric they become much more interested in “how” they are doing than “what” they are doing or writing. Elbow offers the same opinion, “students…get so hung up…that they care more about scores than about learning”. Though this may be truer of higher level classes, I feel it does apply to 4th graders. Needless to say, I am very interested in learning more about good ways to assess writing – no scratch that, I am interested in learning new ways to help students improve their writing.
I was thinking about this as I was assessing student writing last weekend with my ready to go rubric. As I was writing feedback on the rubrics, I was very conscious about whether or not this feedback (or even the rubric) would help improve their writing. How can we give feedback to help students improve their writing rather than making them feel bad about the fact that they did not apply the skills that we wanted them to learn?