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.


At 6:08 AM, Blogger Xavia H2011 said...

Dear Ms. Moritz,
I thought your blog was very interesting to hear about how some students don't care about having a rubric and go straight to the final grade. I do focus a lot on my final grade, but I also find it really helpful to have a teacher make a rubric for the assignment. Why? Well I find that when having a rubric while you are doing the project and after the project, you see in more detail what the teacher expects for the overall outcome of the project. To me this is really helpful especially while you are doing the project or assignment. The teacher lays it out for you to follow so you are almost guaranteed to at get an A or a high B. It is also really nice to have it after the project is graded to see where you missed the points. I also think feedback is important as well. Having this information from someone who knows what needs to be done, can help you improve so much. So, I agree with you on how some kids who don’t choose not to look at the rubric with the specific points and to read the feedback are missing a lot. Do they not want to improve? I think that even though some students don’t really care for this information, I still think it would be nice for teachers to continue doing so, so that the ones who do care will keep improving.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger seanb said...

Dear Ms. Moritz,
This really is a great post with a lot of good questions. Depending on the project I only look at the final grade. For example, in English class after a big project I always want to look at the final grade first and then look at the rubric to see where I can improve. By doing this I have actually improved on my PLN presentations. I always think rubrics are helpful and their really is no downside to them. While they do give me a direction to go on, they also help me on what I need to make it the best possible. I do agree with you that it is sad that some students don’t look at the rubric. But that is their choice and they will miss out on opportunities. I also check what kind of feedback I get to, because a lot of the time it is helpful. I think teachers should always use rubrics, because not only are they helpful to me but they will be helpful to future generations of students.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger alenav said...

Ms. Moritz,
I enjoyed reading this post because I completely agree with the points you make. Being a student here at Arapahoe I see students around me everyday just looking at their grade and not caring about reading comments on it. Rubrics are made for the purpose of improving the student's learning and thinking. Looking at a rubric carefully students should notice where they went wrong and how they can fix it next time. Why go through the time of making one when students are not using them? Students are not going to improve unless they learn that they can change the outcome of their grade by taking in and paying attention to what teachers say they need to work on. I myself am thankful when teachers comment on my papers and assignments because when I go over it, I realize what I should have done, and can do better next time. Their are always going to be students who do not care about improving and are fine with the overall grade, but for students who want to learn and improve this is extremely beneficial. Going back over our work will tell us what we did right and wrong, this is essential because our work will just keep getting better and better. I think that students need to be pushed and motivated to succeed and want to learn why they got the grade they did instead of just that.


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