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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

MythBusters: Rubric Edition

It is a joy to bring comfort to people, and in my professional capacity, I never bring more comfort than when I can say to someone, “We can help you with rubrics.” When we say this, the floodgates open, and out pour all of the assumptions folks have about rubrics that stoke the anxiety they feel about creating rubrics! Some of these assumptions are just wrong; others are unrealistic ideas about what a rubric should be able to do. These are myths that folks bring with them, undermining their confidence and capacity to create rubrics. Here are six myths of rubrics, BUSTED. 

Myth #1: A rubric locks you into a rigid grading practice

You (all) make the decision about how rubrics are used, but flexibility is necessary. There should be nothing automatic about the way you use a rubric. This is especially important when using rubrics formatively! Rubrics can be a powerful tool for learning! 

Myth #2: The rubric stands alone

Rubrics are not self-evident. The fact that you have to unpack a rubric with students is not a sign of the rubric’s weakness. Rubrics don’t replace instruction or coaching, they help make it more effective. They require communication between teacher and student, and teacher and teacher to agree on the meaning of proficiency. 

Myth #3: Rubrics are the end of subjectivity

Rubrics create transparency, not objectivity. Criteria are still subjective, and interpretation still depends on your collective professional judgement. This is yet another reason for PLCs. 

Myth #4: By describing success, you are limiting student creativity

Describing the learning does not mean prescribing the product. Often the product has only a coincidental relationship to the competency. Are you requiring something of students that has no bearing on the learning target? 

Myth #5: A rubric encourages minimal performance from students

It is true that rubrics describe what level of performance is “enough” to succeed. “Enough” does not equal “minimal.” If “enough” is not acceptable, then you need to check the meaning of the word “enough.” 

Myth #6: Rubrics can be used with number grades and averages, and still be truthful and powerful

They cannot. Rubrics are vital to describing student success, providing actionable feedback, and telling the story of student learning. The moment you try to take this story, convert it to a number, and try to compute with it, you undermine the very thing the rubric is best at doing. Number grades arise from assessment of learning. Rubrics are at the core of assessment for learning. The two could not be more cross-purposed. 


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