on November 13, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on From the world of education: Are rubrics making us rubes?

From the world of education: Are rubrics making us rubes?

Adult 1: Have you ever heard of a “rubric”?

Adult 2: Sure.

1: You have?

2. Of course. It’s those goofy cubes with all the colored squares.

1. No, no–;that’s “Rubik,” as in, “Rubik’s Cube.”

2: Oh. Okay.

1. So, have you ever heard of rubric?

2. Uh, no, I guess I haven’t.

1. It’s an education thing. It’s how we tell our students what we expect from an assignment.

2. Oh. Well, of course. We had those.

1. You did?

2. Sure. “20 page paper, double spaced, A.P.A., about the causes and aftermath of…” whatever.

1. Well, okay, not quite. I mean, that’s the assignment, that tells you what to do. But, nobody ever told you how to do those things, did they?

2. Um…no. You know, read, research, write. That was all kind of assumed.

1. Well, see, these days, we actually tell kids what we expect. We tell them that they need three sources, that they need to include a certain number of quotes, that they need to cite specific examples of things to make the paper good.

2. Really?

1. Yeah! Isn’t that cool? Kids have such a better idea of how to write a good paper now.

2. Huh. Do you use rubrics in math, too?

1. Sure. All the steps.

2. Oh. So, is that why it requires five steps to add 83 and 49, whereas in the old days it, y’know, required adding?

1. Well, no. I mean, this is so much better, because the kids who used to struggle have a better way to think now. We coach them up to understand it.

2. Huh. Okay, so, let’s go back to the paper. If they know exactly how you’re going to grade, won’t they just go down the checklist?

1. We hope so –; that’s kind of the idea.

2. But what if their writing is completely incoherent, but they have all the check points?

1. Well, that can’t really happen.

2. Really? Then why did one of your students ask me the other day what to say in a thank you note?

1. Huh?

2. Yeah. What to say in a thank you note. Had absolutely no idea.

1. Well, that’s not…

2. And on the other end of things, what if a kid writes a completely convincing argument, but leaves off one your checkpoints?

1. Well, they’d get graded down. But, it’s not supposed to be possible to make a convincing argument without all the benchmarks.

2. Ah. Never been in a courtroom, have you?

1. Well, uh…

2. Never mind. Speaking of coaching, how does that work for practicing things like sports, or music?

1. What do you mean?

2. Well, if we’re training them to follow exactly what we tell them to do, how do they do things that require them to figure it out on their own?

1. Well, um, I guess, they just need some direction about what the right steps to take would be.

2. Some direction? What if they don’t get that? Are you saying that they’re not expected to ever have to figure things out on their own from the beginning?

1. Well, I wouldn’t say that.

2. Oh! –; is that why kids have to have 24/7 coaching these days? So they never have to try to get better in an unsupervised environment?

1. Well, no, I mean, this is more of an educational approach.

2. Sure, but that’s what they do all day as kids –; that’s how we’re training them!

1.There’s still plenty of room for independent thought. This just removes some of the mechanical barriers to doing good work.

2. It does?

1. Yes.

2. Independent thought?

1. Yes.

2. Then why can’t a teenager find a house by an address without their phone guiding every step?

1. [stares blankly, blinks once]

2. Right. Maybe we should stick with colored cubes.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com

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