Thursday, May 27, 2010

Learning is Not Intuitive

In On Balance Kevin Jarrett states,

“It made me realize that many times I have assumed that my high school students knew how to do something. Then they would look at me with this blank glazed-over look in their eyes and I knew I was in trouble. “

I have also seen my students enter my room with an assignment from another teacher. They were told to do research and write a report on a certain topic. For my students, they have no idea where to begin. Usually they go to the library and someone hands them a book on that topic. Then they start copying paragraphs from the book. They might see a picture that interests them and so they copy a paragraph near that picture. They jump around the book copying paragraphs until they have the assigned length. Yet they are stunned when they receive a failing grade for their report.

The problem is that no one told them where to start! Yes, maybe they were taught in third grade how to write a report but every year, different teachers use different criteria to evaluate these things. Yet, many assume that the students know and understand this criteria.

I find that using rubrics is the best way for me to share my expectations with the students. I want them to know what I’m looking for before they begin the work. Too many times I have worked on an assignment for a teacher only to find out halfway that I was moving in the wrong direction and had to start all over. Not only was I discouraged but I was frustrated by the waste of time that I had already put in. Rubrics also help me organize my own thoughts and criteria before I give an assignment. I have also seen too many teachers give busy work to students with no thought about assessing the finished project and believe me, students can pick up on this quickly. If they see the teacher doesn’t care, why should they put thought and effort into it either?

Now, you may be thinking that this only works for students in K-12 but it also works on the college level. I think rubrics help on any level and can really be instrumental in the success of the learner. I also started to see that if I couldn’t come up with a rubric for an assignment, I had to take a long hard look at the assignment and what I hoped to achieve.

I start off by writing down what I want to grade the student on. I make this list out and then decide on the main ones that I feel are essential and delete the ones that I think are not. Once I determine what is important for the student to achieve, I decide on the rating scale that will determine the grade. Once I decide what scale I am going to use, I give specifics for what will constitute each number. This takes a lot of time on the front end but it sure makes grading easier when I get the finished product. It also makes grading less subjective and easier for the student to understand where the mistakes were made.

If the student sees where the mistakes were made, then it is easier for the student to correct these mistakes and work towards more success. And isn’t that what I hope for the student to do?

Do you use rubrics? If so, what steps to you go through to develop one? Do you feel they are useful and why or why not?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Research Paper on Microsoft' by: Alexis Cordova

1 comment:

rebecca said...

I use rubrics for most student created assignments in class. I find rubrics give children clear expectation as well as a check list to make sure their work is up to my standards. As an example, third graders often forget to capitalize and punctuate sentences. Having this on a rubric makes the quality of their work stronger.