Use rubrics, and use them often.
Even you, Mr. Chips.
Whether you teach creative writing online, environmental science in a hybrid setting, or computer programming face-to-face, use rubrics.
For the students’ sake.
Everyone will tell you that grading will be easier and faster with a rubric. I don’t care about that, though it may be true.
Don’t get hung up on the rubric design (grid or checklist?) or the style (analytic or holistic?) or the point system (how many points does one deduct for misspelling Glasnost?) In fact, forget the point tally, even. Scrap all of that for now.
Students, especially online students, want more feedback. And you’re probably not giving them enough.
One of the highlights of DOTS is when a group of students joins us for Q&A with the faculty. Professors have the opportunity to ask real live students what it’s like, what it’s really like, to take college courses online. And they get (mostly) straight answers. This week, I listened to one student lament that none of her recent online instructors gave her feedback until the very end of term. None?
Moral of the story: use rubrics in your online courses. Start now. Believe it or not, “A” students want to know what they can do to improve. “D” students want to know what they are doing well (did I get nothing right?). If you aren’t doing a good job at telling them what’s working and what’s not, let your rubric do the talking.
That said, rubrics aren’t meant to replace written and/or verbal feedback. On the contrary, if you are one of the instructors who already provides ample, personalized feedback to students, please use a rubric in addition to your written and verbal feedback. That will not only keep your “human element” intact but also fill in any gaps that the rubric might not address.
I’ve heard a few groans when talking about this stuff. One professor, who shall remain nameless, responded to my prompt about rubrics with “Yeah, I use a rubric alright. It looks like this: [expletive] or not [expletive].” Funny, yes, but exactly my point!
Among other things, rubrics help instructors get clear on:
- the learning objectives for each assignment;
- how to classify above average, average, and below average work;
- what each student’s strengths and weaknesses are;
- what an entire class’s strengths and weaknesses are; and
- whether an assignment’s given instructions are clear or not.
What professor, in what field, should not be concerned with all of the above?
Perhaps you can come up with a wily response to that question—some kind of probe into what learning environments could, should, and/or shouldn’t be. But you, the instructor, can be as creative as you want to be when constructing a rubric. Go completely off the grid if you so desire. Include your students in the creation of the rubric! (Talk about a great way to encourage them to take ownership of their learning goals.) But no matter the approach you choose, prepare to spend some time designing and writing a rubric. Count on at least a few drafts and test drives. Use your learning objectives as your guide. Run your rubric by your instructional technology liaison. Check it against the “Rubric for Rubrics.” Eventually you will have a solid vehicle for feedback, and you’ll be able to drive that baby into the virtual sunset. With Mr. Chips.