Building with Rubrics

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If students are to improve their communication and collaboration skills, they will require feedback related to current levels of performance. In her book The Best Class You Never Taught: How SPIDER WEB Discussion Can Turn Students Into Learning Leaders, Alexis Wiggins promotes the use of a rubric for assessing SPIDER WEB discussions. According to Wiggins (pp. 17-22), the rubric should:

  1. Clearly identify the goals for the discussion.
  2. Clearly identify the skills to be increased.
  3. Clearly define the outcomes to achieved.
  4. Be used by students to reflect and self-assess.

While I concur with Wiggins’ recommendations regarding the rubric, I would also add one more recommendation:

  1. The rubric should be student generated if at all possible.

Students of all ages are capable of understanding and articulating what they should know and how they will demonstrate their new knowledge. Several years ago I taught a 4th grade music composition class, and I asked the group to develop the rubric used to assess the music generated. Our dialogue about what makes a good composition (harmony, melody, form, contrast, rhythm, etc.) demonstrated that they had a significant understanding of the content, and I found that the students were far more demanding than I would have been regarding their compositions. I was quite shocked and impressed at the same time. In the end, they produced some rather high quality compositions, they could explain them in appropriate terms, and they were fully engaged in the assessment process.

As you begin to develop plans for your SPIDER WEB discussions, think of ways to engage students in the development of the rubric to be used for assessment purposes. I believe you and your students will learn much and enjoy the journey!

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