Rubrics are Bull… Says George.

After reading Selena Woodward’s article about rubrics tonight I reflected on my thoughts and practice. I kind of agree with both George and Selena. Rubrics can be useful and guide instruction, helping to make learning visible to students and teachers, but they can be superficial and perhaps restrictive. It also reminded me of an article I had read last year.

In July last year after reading Fang and Wang’s article in the ALEA Journal, Vol 34, No 2, 2011 I wrote this reflective comment:

Beyond Rubrics: Using Functional Language Analysis to Evaluate Student Writing
Zhihui Fang & Zhijun Wang University of Florida and University of Finance and Economics, China
This article argues that rubrics are neither exact nor objective. Instead the authors introduce an assessment method that encourages the evaluation of content, organization and style.

This article strikes a chord with me. I agree that at times rubrics don’t seem to quite fit the bill. The LYMY assessment of MILO (mechanics, ideas, language and organisation) which I felt very confident and comfortable using seems similar to the content, organisation and style structure that this article suggests. This also fits well with the methodology suggested by Bev Deriwianka on the weekend. Exploring and teaching grammar in context and focusing on how meaning is presented through the deliberate use of language are important aspects to attend to.

Teaching students how to use simple, compound and complex sentences is only part of the job. Teaching them when to use these effectively for different purposes is an important aspect. Eg. explore the grammatical structure needed to write an information report: generic participants, clauses with linking verbs (eg., be, have), verbs in present tense, technical vocabulary, nominalisations, and expanded noun groups with embedded clauses and other modifiers.

I think I am slowly getting to the stage where I can confidently use a framework such as this to explore language use. However, I have reverted to using a rubric this year after exploring the Australian Curriculum and knowing that I am required to provide an A-E grade at the end of the year. This is the rubric I have created to go with the Traditional Stories unit of work we have been working on this term:

Term 4 Rubric

Frameworks to guide both instruction and learning are important. I would like to explore these more, including the SOLO taxonomy as a way of gaining insight into strength and needs of students, both for instruction and remediation.

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