Empowered Students Can Write Rubrics for You!

This time of year, most teachers are growing tired of scoring student learning according to the same, standardized learning outcomes found in their district rubrics. Yes, you can check a box that more or less tells a learner where they are, but inevitably you want to add more relevant comments. That takes a lot of time and, as a result, many educators find themselves wishing there were a way to make their learning experiences more relevant so that assessments for learning would be more relevant, too.

This is a good thing! Relevance isn’t just coming up with learning experiences that engage learners. Every learning experience should also empower learners with a sense that they can go after the attributes, skills, and knowledge (ASKs) that are relevant to their learning needs. While that’s great in theory, professional educators also need a standards-based rubric that demonstrates what students know and are able to do.

Is there a compromise? YES, and you and your learners can negotiate that compromise while they work on a unit or project. Here’s how to start thinking about that for next year:

Step 1: At the beginning of any learning experience, set the “Meets Expectations/Standards” Category using a single point rubric, i.e., define that category using the language of the standards (modified for younger learners, as needed).

Step 2: After first few days of student Inquiry/Research: Collect and use learner’s questions to uncover personalized stepping-stones toward the expectations for learning. Negotiate with your learners (collectively or individually) to set these in the “Approaching” category of the rubric. Allow revisions as needed; revisions mean learning is occurring!

Step 3: After initial prototypes/drafts and feedback on learner’s work, encourage them to reflect on whether any of that work is, or could be, exceeding Expectations/Standards, and if so, in what way? Make a note of that in the “Exceeds” category, and work with learners to set personalized goals where they think they can excel based on their reflections about their work.

Step 4: When the learning experience is done, be sure to encourage learners to consider how starting with target standards helped them articulate their own steps to reach them, and to set goals beyond them. Adult learners will learn from reflecting on these reflections, too!

When assessment for learning is woven into the learning experience, every learning experience becomes an opportunity for young and adult learner co-creation. Even though your learning design targets the required standards, you’ll never step into the same learning experience twice. Hopefully, that’s relevant learning for you in your end of year reflections!

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