Pro Con Essay Rubric High School

The Pros and Cons of Using Rubrics

Choosing whether to use a rubric can be a difficult decision. Grading with a well-developed rubric could save you time, but if you decide on the wrong style of rubric you could end up with a headache. And not all rubrics are created equal; using a mediocre one--even if it is targeted at your project--might make the grading process more trouble than it's worth. Are you having a hard time deciding if a rubric is right for you? Read through this list of rubric pros and cons to help make your decision easier.

Rubric pros

1.) Rubrics help categorize student work

With a rubric, you'll be grading student work against a benchmark for success. A good rubric describes different levels of success in meeting this benchmark and awards points accordingly. For example, if one of the elements of your rubric is timeliness, the student might get the maximum three points for an on-time paper, two points for a project that is less than three days late, one point for a project that is three to five days late and no points for anything more than one week late. Since point values are predetermined, you shouldn't have a problem putting work into appropriate categories and adding total points for a grade.

2.) Rubrics can be blind

A huge advantage of rubrics is their ability to record grades objectively. With a rubric, you don't have to know the student's name and personal information to grade. Theoretically, you could grade all projects with just the typed text component and a rubric. Rubrics, therefore, keep grades objective. Everyone is scored the same because set scoring components are laid out from the start.

3.) Rubrics save you time

Once you develop a good rubric, using it is a cinch. All you have to do is go through the project looking for the components included on your rubric. Grade these elements according to the point and quality scale set down on your rubric. This process should save you lots of time because you won't have to read every sentence for correctness; you'll only focus on those areas which are most important.

Rubric cons

1.) They don't always take outside circumstances into account

If you have a student who tries hard but has learning problems, a rubric may not be the best tool for you. Rubrics only take into account the finished product. Unless you make a point to include credit for effort and time, then most rubrics won't count these elements. For most students, this doesn't matter. But if you have students with learning disabilities, you may want to consider scrapping the rubric tool or redeveloping it so it takes into account things like progress, effort and other outside circumstances.

2.) Can be too analytical for artistic projects

Most teachers find that a rubric can be tailored for any kind of student project, but artistic work is the hardest to grade with a rubric. There are so many intangible factors in an art project--creativity, inspiration, personal history--that grading with a rubric can seem impossible. You would almost certainly be forced to make assumptions about student work, and this could lead to disputes about grades. Don't force a rubric onto an art project; if you can develop one that works, great, but don't turn art into an analytical field--you won't get the best results.

Hopefully, these pros and cons will help you decide if a rubric is right for your next project. There are an infinite number of variations in rubrics, so if you decide to you one you'll have a number of options from which to choose.

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For Teachers

Rubric’s Cue: What's the Best Way to Grade Essays?

By Monica Fuglei November 12, 2014

Because teaching is filled with spirited debate about best practices, the passionate responses to the National Council of Teachers of English’s recent Facebook post asking how instructors feel about grading rubrics should be no surprise. Some teachers embrace rubrics as an incredible device for communicating instructor expectations and grading students’ written work.

Critics complain that rubrics are rigid, unworkable and do a disservice to student writing. It seems that, as a tool for teaching and grading, rubrics are a controversial means of assessing student work.

Grading rubrics can turn writing assignments from “What does the teacher want?” into “How do I fulfill the criteria?”

Rubrics are not simply a checklist for grading student writing. Many teachers use them as both a grading tool and a teaching tool. Because a rubric identifies pertinent aspects of a piece of writing, these rules communicate expectations to students.

Students no longer wonder what their instructor wants, but instead consider how to fulfill specific criteria in their writing assignment. Writing teachers can set expectations in two forms: analytical and holistic rubrics. Both identify criteria for the essay, but then their paths diverge.

Analytical rubric pros and cons

Analytical rubrics are broken down into a grid explaining different measurement levels of each criteria. The grading process involves matching student performance to certain levels under each criteria — poor, satisfactory, or exceptional, for example —  then adding the results to arrive at a final grade.

Fans of the analytical rubric find them incredibly helpful for evaluating how different criteria are fulfilled and for calculating grades, but they can prove to be unwieldy to create and time-consuming to apply. However, when assessment and data collection are a reality of writing instruction, analytical rubrics are useful in departmental assessments.

Holistic rubrics: detailed feedback for students

Sometimes the targeted requirements of analytical rubrics leave teachers at a bit of a loss because they don’t reflect the true quality of a piece of writing. Jennifer Gonzalez, teacher and education blogger for Brilliant or Insane, points out that sometimes writers “demonstrate qualities you didn’t even anticipate.”

As an alternative, Gonzalez suggests a three-column format that gives teachers the opportunity to pinpoint feedback to individual students. This unique holistic rubric allows teachers to provide detailed feedback while also judging a piece of writing with a criteria-driven framework. Holistic rubrics tend to combine the necessary criteria into one single grade assessment of the overall piece, having closely measured that piece against the requirements for the writing assignment.

Critics: Rubrics are a disservice to students

Even when they’re modified to allow for more commentary on student strengths and weaknesses, some educators are convinced that rubrics do a fundamental disservice to students’ ability to learn. Rubrics, say critics, result in standardized measurement of standardized writing, which is hardly the purpose of writing instruction.

Alfie Kohn concedes that rubrics might be helpful as one of a wide variety of sources a teacher could consult as they design instruction, but that rubrics should never drive instruction — nor should they be shared with students as a design element of their writing. He cites research supporting the idea that targeted rubrics result in student writing with less, not more, depth of thought.

These pieces of writing might measure well on a rubric, but result in students who do not have confidence in their own ability to decipher the rules of writing without using a rubric as a guideline for creation. Another critic of rubrics, Maja Wilson, suggests that writing offers its own set of criteria and that each piece should be examined individually.

Flying without rubric wings: essay grading alternatives

Without rubrics, some instructors grade student essays as a full and complete work that sets its own boundaries through its chosen audience. These graders give feedback specific to each essay; doing so reinforces to students that rules of writing are not standard, arbitrary or incomprehensible. While it can be difficult to align this sort of grading technique with department expectations and assessment, students can be encouraged to practice skills that would appear in a standardized test while not being forced to standardize their writing product.

As a composition instructor, I’ve struggled with my own rubrics of late, trying to modify an analytical rubric or redesign a holistic rubric for different assignments. I’ve even asked students to design their own rubric in order to examine what they perceive as important criteria for the assessment of their essays. Ultimately, though, I may abandon rubrics altogether for a style that emphasizes deliberate, student-focused feedback as a part of the writing process and prioritizes critical thinking and creativity.

Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing

Learn More: Click to view related resources. Tags: Assessment Tools, Language Arts

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