Critical Voice for Rubrics?

I want to take a second to respond to something Ramsay does in her classroom. I over looked it while reading the text, but after discussing writing workshops in class, I want to comment on her technique of allowing the students self-create rubrics.

I am totally, completely, 100% all for social collaboration and cooperative learning in the classroom. Both research and my own experiences are solid evidence that these methods are effective. However, when it comes to students having a say in rubrics, I can see how it is a form of social collaboration, but I do not know how I feel about it.

The reason I am saying this is because last semester, I had a professor (research writing) who allowed the students to make our class rubric for all papers. While at first I thought it was going to be a good idea, I quickly came to dislike the operation. Barely half of the class took it seriously. Too many students opted for high point values for trivial things like grammar and mechanics, and left the actual content and writing process worth barely anything. Of course, as college students, they knew what they were doing. They wanted to make the rubric as easy as possible so they could get an A.

Now, I’m all about easy A’s…

BUT…it does not matter what the assignment or how many points, I always put 150% effort into my schoolwork. It would be great to have easy and simple rubrics, of course. But it is completely unfair for a hard-working student to put so much time and effort into a paper, and end up with the same grade as a student who wanted to take the easy way out- just because they don’t have any spelling mistakes.

I am surprised the professor let this happen. But I guess that is how it is when you give students critical voice?

In my classroom management class, we are learning a multitude of classroom techniques and etiquette that we can include in our own learning environment. However, the key is that we don’t have to use them ALL. We can pick what we think will work for us, and what we don’t even want to mess with. Like I said before, I strongly believe in social collaboration and cooperative learning- including critical voice. However, I don’t see me using that structure for the creation of rubrics. I don’t want to promise my students critical voice, and then have them take advantage of it. I am not saying this would happen all of the time, but we have all been a middle school student…we know how it is…

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2 thoughts on “Critical Voice for Rubrics?

  1. I agree with your thoughts that students may not be able (or mature enough!) to create the rubrics on their own. I think they can have some input, but ultimately the teacher must be responsible for ensuring that they are evaluated on the most important aspects of the assignment. I tried this a few years ago at another university and while the students weren’t trying to “cop out” of doing work by giving high points to lesser areas of the assignment, they focused on less important aspects of the assignments in general. I find that most college students like to know how they will be evaluated on all assignments at the very beginning so I don’t really do collaborative rubrics. Maybe someday I’ll try it again… 🙂

  2. I was curious about how that would work, too. I’ve heard of students creating their own reubrics, but perosnally, I’ve never had a professor who allowed it, so it’s interesting to see how it worked out in your case. I keep thinking there must be a way to prevent that from happening, or so many teachers wouldn’t do it!

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