Why are rubrics so important? Can we teach and assess without them? Yes, you can teach
without them, but then can you provide valid, authentic learning and authentic assessment? Rubrics allow students to see exactly what is required of them providing all of the key parts needed to achieve various learning outcomes or objectives. Rubrics are in student friendly language and provide student with feedback on areas of strength and areas that need attention or could be improved. Rubrics also allow teachers to authentically assess students, which provides justification for assessments given. Rubrics can be completed by teachers, peers or the students themselves. When students assess themselves or peers, rubrics give them clear structure and criteria so they understand exactly what they have to assess. This process opens the door for peer to peer and student to teacher discussions about what is going well and what could be improved. Learning is a process, NOT an end result and rubrics can help to facilitate reflection. Students can also use blogs and other formats further reflect on rubrics scores that have been completed by themselves and others on their work.
There are many different online rubric creators that teachers can access. Initially I thought that I would create my own blogging rubric from scratch on one of these creators, but then I decided that I was almost as new to this process as my students and that there are many expert educators out there blogging with their students that I could learn from. I started to search for samples of rubrics that educators have created. I found many from very simple to quite complex. The blogging rubric that caught my attention and seems to be re-used and borrowed from by many is from the University of Wisconsin. The rubric is downloadable as PDF. However, I found Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s adaptation of this rubric to meet the needs of my middle years students by simplifying the format and wording:
Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog post series Stepping it Up- Learning About Blogs FOR your Students also provides valuable information for teachers that they need to understand about blogging. The topics covered are reading blogs to learn about blogging, writing blogs by teachers, student writing, commenting, connecting, reciprocating, and consistency.
Because there are six categories in this rubric, I have picked 2-3 categories every few days this past week to highlight with my students and have them focus on. For example, their blogs are developing nicely related to multimedia and community, so I shifted their focus to quality of writing and voice. By the end of this project they will be able to demonstrate their abilities in all categories, but focusing on all six at the beginning can be overwhelming. I also penciled in inviting responses and commenting to the community category because I felt it was a missing criteria. Eventually I suspect I will create a whole new rubric as I refine my student blogging projects, but for now this is a great rubric to use.
When reading through Rosenthal Tolisano’s blogs series I also started to think about how rubrics provide the criteria or outcomes that you want to see, but having tangible examples that fit the four attainment levels of the rubric would be helpful. As teachers we often collect samples of exemplary and not so exemplary student work to share with students. This makes sense, so why not do this with student blogs? Students can easily look at one another’s blogs in class and compare them to the rubric, but as beginners at this I found Edublogs provides many great samples of student work- nominees and winners in various categories. This aligns with Rosenthal Tolisano’s first series post that talks about the importance of reading blogs as the first step to becoming a better blogger.
Students need to see it before they can do it! This message connected over the past week with our course readings (check out Blogging is the New Resume) and what I am seeing some of my students do. We have talked about our digital footprint being the new medium for job applications and resumes, but some of my students do not recognize this yet. They understand in the sense that they keep their posts “clean”, but some are blogging like they would Snapchat or text. So my task is through modeling in my posting and sharing of sample student blogs that can be compared with the rubric we will build an understanding of how their blogs must help to build a footprint that they would want a future employer or post-secondary school to see. They must shift from the goofy, joking, short- speak of communicating with their friends to the more academic style expected when they write with a pen and paper that outsiders would want to read. That will be our focus over the next week.