A3Writer: Rubrics
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Rubrics have become the big thing in college essay grading. More and more colleges are advocating their use. Online tools are created, and whole departments are coming together to create them in an effort to standardized how writing is graded.
Here's where I get the hairy eyeball.
I hate rubrics. I can't stand them.
Here's the thing about rubrics, the categories never seem to be adequate. The gradations within those categories never seem to be adequate, either. I think that rubrics can artificially raise or lower the score of an essay. Every teacher has had to wrestle with whether a score goes up or down because the gradations just can't accurately measure every eventuality.
Why are they used and so popular?
I think the popularity of rubrics really comes from the ability to speed grading. Because of the categories and gradations, teachers can quickly assess an essay with almost Scantron speed. I have actually seen instructors move with that kind of speed through an essay. Moreover, many believe that the rubric gradations serve as specific comments and feedback. It is a quick, efficient form of grading, but I don't think the mechanization of grading is truly beneficial.
But I think certain things can be taken from rubrics to improve my slower, antiquated grading. I've been incorporating checklists of things that the students will need to be able to do, or else their grade receives a penalty, such as essay length, point of view, citation of sources, etc. I think this is a better way as I don't have to force abstract qualities (such as communicating ideas) into a rubric. I have a concrete means of determining score on objective measures. I'll continue to explore various options, including ways to make rubrics better, but for now I'm against using them.