Setting Achievable Goals with Rubrics

Rubrics are generally considered a good thing since they simplify grading for instructors and provide feedback for students. There are a lot of resources on rubrics and how to construct them. This is one example from Harvard University and this is a link to an index page for more resources on rubrics. From the index page, we can even find a rubric for rubrics!

I like rubrics as a motivational strategy since it conveys expectations. In her book “Student Engagement Techniques”, Barkley says, “Students must have confidence that, with appropriate effort, they can succeed. If there is no hope, there is no motivation” (p. 11).

This blog is a class assignment and it is graded using a rubric.  This is the expectation for the highest level of achievement for this blog:

Level ofMastery Level 4 A superior, consistent performance; beyond expectations
Blog Project60 % The Blog reflects a professional product that could be used as an educational resource. Content, links, resources and media are substantive and reflect breadth and depth. A wide range of media is evident throughout the Blog.
Organization AndLayout

35 %

Organization and layout requirements are met. The document has a professional look and feel
Writing skills5% Writing is free of grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.

 

The only grade here is 10/10. Perfect. Who is perfect? But it is worse than that, because the level of mastery here says “beyond expectations”. If the expectation is perfection, how can we exceed that? Furthermore, we are only expected to spend 8 – 10 hours week working on this course, which includes other activities besides this blog. I can spend 8-10 hours on one blog post alone. How am I to achieve substantive content, links, resources and media within that time frame? For organization and layout, the document should have “a professional look and feel”. Well, thank goodness WordPress makes a professional layout easy, but I’m still not a professional writer. Besides, what does “professional” look and feel like anyway? The last criteria is that “writing is free of grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.” Yeah, right. As if that is going to happen without a copy editor and even with a copy editor, mistakes still happen.

So if we go back to our rubric about rubrics, the blog assignment rubric gets a poor since “expresses goals that are unclear, unattainable, or unrealistic“, “offers judgments that are merely opinions“, and “describes characteristics that are not age appropriate “. So how would I fix this, if I was the instructor? The description of criteria for each part of the assignment needs to be more objectively defined. For example, how many posts should be included? What constitutes depth and breadth (for me depth would be using the higher levels of Bloom taxonomy and breadth would involve using 3 or more sources in the post)? What format should the posts be in (text, video, audio, cartoons)? How many of each? Should these formats be self-generated or just include sharing the work of others? How long should the posts be?

I think the description of perfection is useful to convey the instructor’s vision of the assignment in terms of goals but not as an evaluation category. I see value in striving for perfection and knowing what that looks like helps, but as evaluation category perfection is unattainable. There is no hope, so why even try? Indeed, I had a mini-meltdown when I read this rubric at the beginning of the course, until I told myself I didn’t need to be perfect. Level 3 is good enough.

Levelof

Mastery

Level 3 A solid consistent performance; demonstrated competency of knowledge and skills
BlogProject

60 %

The Blog demonstrates a comprehensive perspective of the topics, however, more attention to detail could have been demonstrated in regards to content, links and resources.
OrganizationAnd

Layout

35 %

Organizational requirements met (i.e., thinking and content). Issues exist re structure and layout of material.
Writing skills5% Writing contains minor grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.

 

The blog to me is a continuing project which helps me evolve as an instructor. The blog gives me a place to collect ideas and techniques, explore my thoughts, take risks, modify my approach and document this journey. A daily post forces me to keep thinking about my teaching and allows me to convey my dedication to my craft. The blog will never be done.

More importantly, I decided this blog is for me, not some grade. I’m also not out to seek fame. If people want to come along for the journey, they are most welcome and I appreciate all comments and shares. I find the thought of self-promotion repulsive in its arrogance. If a fellow instructor asks me a question, I will feel compelled to share what I have learned but I just don’t think that I’m all that interesting or brilliant to promote this blog without prior solicitation.

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