Moritz's Blog

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


After reading The Trouble with Rubrics, by Alfie Kohn, at first I was a little defensive. I understand that there is "trouble with rubrics," and I know the flaws and the limitations it puts on students and teachers, but I also need to reflect on years of the past, as well as the present.

Years ago, when I would grade a paper, it was solely based on what I thought about it as a person trained to teach reading and writing (B.A. + teacher certification in English). I relied on students looking at the feedback given on their papers. Truly, then and now, students didn't care about the feedback. They would look for the grade and then, either smile with content or ball up their paper and throw it in the garbage.
Things really haven't changed.

Now, when I use rubrics, they still go immediately to the final grade. So what is a teacher to do?

We are expected to give grades. Not only from our administration, but from the students, parents and state. We have to assess learning in a formal, conventional way. It is our responsibility.

I do agree with the idea that giving the students the rubric ahead of time stifles their desire to learn. Kohn quotes another educator who says students seemed "unable to function unless every required its spelled out for them in a grid and assigned a point value. Worse than that...they do not have confidence in their thinking or writing skills and seem unwilling to really take risks" (email to Kohn). This infuriates me because it is so true.

With a project we did earlier this semester, I did not give the students any rubric. They insisted on one. Eventually, because of their lack of work-because they had no specific outcome laid out for them-I made a rubric.

How do we, as high school teachers, get students to de-program their brains to stop focusing on the outcome and just embrace the learning? I'd really love to know.