One last post, and I’m off to bed. I do, after all, have to teach tomorrow. I had a discussion with my principal about rubrics the other day, and today I read an article entitled “Why I Won’t Be Using Rubrics to Respond to Students’ Writing” by Maja Wilson (in English Journal, March 2007 — read it here if you are an EJ subscriber). My only real issue with the article is that Ms. Wilson focuses on personal narrative, which is much harder to look at with an objective rubric. I would have liked to have seen what she would have done with a persuasive essay, expository essay, or literary analysis, where I think more objectivity in the form of “looking for certain things” certainly exists. I do, however, think she has some very good points. I have been a staunch believer in the rubric, and have even written defenses on this very site this year, but my discussion and this article are really making me think. I do think rubrics have helped me become more objective, but I think I have taken the objectivity too far and some of the human element in what my students are writing has not been considered. I have ideas about how I will approach things differently next year. If I had my way, I wouldn’t grade student writing at all, but simply give them feedback so they could improve. School doesn’t work like that, however, and I have to assign grades to written work. Instead of being a tool, my rubrics have become my crutch, and I think I could have given more tangible, valuable feedback this year. I do plan to stick to my resolve about portfolios and typewritten feedback (at least every other essay) for next year. It’s too late for me to collect data and see what sort of quantifiable impact this approach will have on my students, but I will keep you posted.
Maja Wilson is also the author of the Heinemann book Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment.