Criterion-referenced assessment is most appropriate for assessing what concepts and skills students have learned from a block of instruction. Such assessments measure how well a student performs in relation to an outcome rather than another student. Such classrooms are mastery oriented, inform students of the expected outcome and expect all students to success. Much of our classroom assessment practice is criterion referenced. We plan our instruction with the end in mind. Beginning with the outcome, we create learning intentions or statements that will help our students know what is expected (I Can Statements) in language that they understand. Then we create a task or measure of how we will assess what is expected. An instrument such as a rubric helps us to assess the understanding of that outcome.
Fifteen years ago, when beginning my journey with rubrics, I am not sure that I clearly understood that they were a form of criterion-referenced evaluation. They just made good sense to me for three key reasons.
1. They helped me communicate to students what was expected.
2. Work samples along with the rubric criteria helped show students what excellence looked like.
3. It helped communicate and justify strengths and opportunities for growth to parents and students about how the grade was derived and helped to plan for future instruction.
While rubrics are vital tools in communicating to students the performance standards expected of them, there is a danger that some students may be discouraged by standards. Most rubrics I used in the past have consisted of a rating scale consisting of one or more of the numbers (1 – 4 or 6), letters (A, B, C, D), words (Beginning, Developing, Proficient, Expert), happy-sad faces etc. Feedback statements or criteria, especially for the 1st level, often consisted of words like limited, no awareness, did not.
To follow up a previous post on “The Ultimate Purpose of Evaluation”, we have to find ways teach students to become more self-evaluative and take responsibility for their own learning. We need to find a way to do this that reports fairly and transparently and also is respectful and has a focus on student growth.
Circular rubrics like this Storytelling Rubric have huge potential to move us along. In this video a Grade 1 teacher co-constructs a rubric with her students and then teaches them to use it to self assess and reflect. I am thinking that if Grade 1 can do it, anyone can. What if we constructed circular rubrics that encouraged self assessment and promoted the idea of balance and growth in a life-long learning process rather than failing and passing? The video links inspired me to think about what such a rubric might look like:
1. I can statements that are positive and strength based rather than can and can’t or passing and failing.
2. No numbers, letters, faces that indicate great, good or not good but instead growth rings that show strengths and opportunities for growth.
3. A tool that can be used for students as early as grade 1 to encourage reflection and self assessment.