Nancy Uber-Kellogg

Rubric Project

Background

The rubric covers four dimensions of writing essays in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies’ Saturday B.A. Degree Completion Program. Those dimensions

are: choice of subject, point of significance, focus statement, and organization. The educational goals that inform the rubric are: 1) to enhance students’ ability to

craft a meaningful and effective focus statement for an essay and 2) to increase their use of the focus statement as the organizational structure of their essay. I

used the rubric with our incoming cohort of 8 students in order to help them both improve their writing skills and become familiar with the role of essay writing in

the program. The course was LIBS 380: Identity and Society, the first of 4 10-unit courses in this hybrid program. I served as the writing instructor.

Use

I introduced the rubric at our third on-campus writing workshop on March 7, 2015. The focus of the workshop involved reviewing an assignment that entailed

writing summaries of two articles and introducing the follow-on assignment to write an essay. They were to raise an issue or question that emerged from those

articles and explore it through their essay. Each student received a copy of the rubric. After the students wrote their essays, I used the rubric to give feedback on their

work. At the fourth writing workshop, on April 11, 2015, I returned their work along with another copy of the rubric with my evaluation. I am including paper

copies of each person’s rubric evaluation.

After they had a chance to review the rubric evaluation of their work, I gave them paper copies of the survey you designed and asked them to fill them out then.

Seven of the eight students were present that day, and all of them filled out the survey and returned it to me. I am including paper copies of the seven surveys.

Survey Results

How often have you used a rubric in other classes?

Answers:

  • Level 1: 4 students had never used them
  • Level 2: 2 students
  • Level 3: 1 student
  • Levels 4 & 5: 0

How helpful was the rubric in clarifying the key expectations of the assignment?

Answers

  • Level 1: 1 student
  • Levels 2 & 3: 0 students
  • Level 4: 4 students
  • Level 5: 1 student
  • Not applicable: 1 student

How helpful was the rubric in guiding the organization of your work?

Answers

  • Level 1: 1 student
  • Levels 2 & 3: 0 students
  • Level 4: 2 students
  • Level 5: 2 students
  • Not applicable: 2 students

How helpful was the rubric in determining the strengths & weaknesses of your work?

Answers

  • Level 1: 1 student
  • Levels 2 & 3: 0 students
  • Level 4: 2 students
  • Level 5: 2 students
  • Not applicable: 2 students

Did you use the rubric to revise your work before submitting it to your professor?

Answers

  • Yes: 2 students
  • No: 5 students

Did it help you understand the grade you received for your work?

Answers

  • Level 1: 0 students
  • Level 2: 1 student
  • Level 3: 0 students
  • Level 4: 1 student
  • Level 5: 4 students
  • Not applicable: 1 student

Do you believe other professors should use rubrics to guide students as they work on assignments?

  • Yes: 7 students
  • No: 0 students

Interpretation of Results

Four of the 7 students had never used a rubric before, yet all 7 students answered the final question yes. These results suggest that they found the idea

of rubrics to be helpful enough to want professors to use them in other classes or for other assignments.

As for the usefulness of this particular rubric, two sets of results stand out.

First, while 5 students found the rubric helpful or very helpful in clarifying

expectations and 4 students found it helpful in guiding the organization of their work, only two students used the rubric when revising their work. I take this result to mean that I did not emphasize to them that they could use the rubric in this way. We ran short on time during the March 3 workshop because I took more time than planned to answer their questions about the WEPT exam. In the future, I will make more of an effort to explain how they might work with the rubric.

Second, 5 students answered that they found the rubric helpful or very helpful with understanding the grade they received. And while this assignment was not graded, still it was evaluated in terms of whether their writing skills were developed enough for them to have a good chance of succeeding in this writing-intensive program. I think these results show that the students are interested in knowing where their skills lie on a continuum between basic proficiency and full mastery of academic writing. They are all adult learners who have returned to school to finish their degrees. As such, they are motivated to do well.

Interpretation of my rubric feedback to students.

On every rubric, I added comments in order to convey the feedback I wanted to give. On the one hand, it suggests that I have not yet fine-tuned the rubric

sufficiently for the descriptors to work without additional remarks. On the other hand, the rubric dimensions and levels gave me a framework within which to make individualized comments. In this way, students received comments that related to their particular writing; at the same time they saw where I placed those comments in terms of their skill development. In other words, they knew what those specific comments indicated about their skill level in a given dimension.

Suggestions

This rubric could be further simplified and clarified. With additional work, it could be used for essay assignments in all four of the program’s courses. It might also be useful to faculty teaching in the residential Hutchins School of Liberal Studies program as well as for those teaching in other humanities departments.

Closing

Thank you, Noelia, for the opportunity to take part in this project. Thank you, too, for working intensively with me to revise my draft rubric and craft it into one that was more condensed and quantifiable. My students and I found it a very valuable project, and I look forward to sharing it with the Hutchins faculty in September.