Using Rubrics as a Grading Tool

Recently I have had an interaction with an individual employed in higher education who indicated that as long as a rubric is filled out no reasoning is necessary to define why sections of a rubric were selected. Most of us in academia would agree that, that is wrong, as it leaves ambiguity for our students. It leads me to this post where I intend to offer some key characteristics to using a rubric properly.

Create Your Own Rubric:
There are resources abound that will offer sample resources on nearly every assignment you may give. Most will actually offer sample rubrics for particular assignments. So why do I think it is a good idea to create your own? Creating your own rubric allows you to tightly wind what you are looking for in an assignment. Some assignments might only need to be defined as Average, Good or Very Good, while other assignments may need multiple designations as to what each section defines. For example, if you ask for 5 resources on a research paper and a student doesn’t meet this expectation you will need to define all possibilities from 0 resources to 5 resources to properly assess this criterion. You can use examples to gather ideas, but creating your own allows you to grade in a more efficient fashion, since you’ve defined everything in accordance to the way you grade.

Follow Your Rubric:
I have experienced situations where the same rubric was used on multiple assignments. On one assignment I would receive one grade and on another assignment I would receive a different grade even though the rubric was followed in both cases. Once you’ve defined your rubric structure you must follow it. If you use the rubric for multiple assignments you must be consistent. Failing to be consistent can impact student morale and cause fatigue.

Be Prepared to Explain Your Rubric:
Some of us think in different ways. To avoid any issues it is best to explain your rubric to your course for the best execution of your plan. Failing to explain your rubric can lead to ambiguity or even a complete lack of understanding that leads to no one following it.

Be Prepared to Execute Your Rubric:
If you’ve detailed 5 resources are necessary for an assignment and only 3 are provided be certain to select the section that notes 3 resources were provided. This helps define to a student where they missed points.

Be Prepared to Offer Commentary:
Simply receiving a rubric with sections checked off is unlikely to help any student understand their grade. You should provide your reasoning for selecting the rubric sections. This provides students with the opportunity to not only see where they need improvement, but use this information for the next assignment.

Be Prepared to Discuss:
Students may not necessarily agree with every point we take off for, so it is important to allow for dialogue. Be ready to confirm your commentary by using examples. Then offer ideas for improvement, such as proofreading, peer review, etc.

Modify Accordingly:
Nothing is ever perfect. Be willing to modify your rubric according to how it is working. You might find a rubric that fits one class nicely might not fit another class. You might find that a rubric might be too harsh or too vague once you have all grades computed. Fine tuning your rubric allows for greater opportunities that it can be used over and over in the future. Be sure to modify the rubric any time you modify the assignment as well.

Rubric Tools:
Annenberg Learner
Teachnology Rubric Maker
Essay Tagger

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Rubrics

You can also use Google and Google Docs to find more tools and samples to use.

Should Grammarly Be Used to Grade English Assignments?

During my MeD program at Bowling Green State University there were a number of courses that placed emphasis on grading in the same manner that an English professor or teacher would on writing assignments. Since none of these individuals were actually qualified to do so with the same eye an English professor or teacher would they turned to Grammarly, a paid tool for reviewing writing. I once asked why they use Grammarly and the response was simply that “everyone else does.”

In my experiences with these professors using Grammarly, the review Grammarly provided DID NOT match that of a trained English teacher on any occurrence. Grammarly seemed to be a tool used as a quick solution to those with limited proofreading and reviewing skills. It was like TurnItIn, which is an easy and quick way to check for plagiarism.

So the assumption is that Grammarly may be used by some graduate professors, but should it be used to grade English assignments?

Based on seeing the product in action I think it should only be used as a supplemental tool when grading English assignments. For example, you may miss something simple if you are grading late at night and Grammarly may catch it for you. This is solely based on my experience that the review Grammarly provided didn’t match the review of a skilled English professor or teacher.

With that said Grammarly can also be used as a supplemental tool for all educators, but bear in mind if you’re grading for punctuation, grammar, etc. to only use Grammarly’s findings as part of your grading. Feel free to try Grammarly today and be your own judge.

Free & Quick Proofreading from Grammarly!

Should every child be ready for college when they graduate ? Maybe…. maybe not

This is the perplexing question that every parent faces as their child enters high school and they start thinking about what happens in the next three or four years. Should we start saving now for college, how much will it cost us and what options do we have ? These are all excellent questions and many can be answered through high school counselors and other resources.

Two areas that parents and students should investigate before graduation are community colleges and career & occupational training programs. Both of these can be exceptional ways to save money and give a student the additional college and career experience that will help prepare them for the future workforce. Community colleges can offer the first two years of college experience much cheaper than a four-year state or private institutions. Many community colleges are offering career and occupational training programs that are exceptional.

Here are some facts that are worth knowing about: 35% of the students entering college their first year dropout, only 40% of the students who stay in school graduate in four years and 60% of the students who stay in college require six or more years to graduate. This only adds to the increased cost of the education and the indebtedness that students find themselves when they finally do graduate.

There are many excellent, high paying jobs that don’t require a four-year college education. Students and parents should explore these options to see if the student has interest in the area and the demand for jobs is sufficient for employment. Here are just a few jobs that pay well and have high demand in the USA: dental hygienist, web developer, medical secretary, paralegal assistant, auto mechanic, firefighter and many more.

Even with younger children parents can start the college and career exploration process by talking about jobs. When a child goes to the dentist for teeth cleaning have the hygienist explained to them what they enjoy most about their work. Almost everywhere you go someone is doing something that could be interesting as a future occupational opportunity for your child. Help them learn to ask good questions and think about those options early on.

Finding the Right College Loan

The cost of college education continues to grow, but it seems as though higher education is necessary for future students to succeed. Students and parents are often confused on how to finance student pursuits in college. Parents have a number of options available to them like private loans, federal loans, saving beforehand, paying out of pocket or receiving scholarships and grants.

Most students will not receive scholarships or grants that will cover the entire cost of college. In a lot of instances the scholarships and grants are often only applied to tuition, so other costs like housing and textbooks become a financial concern. Grants are often limited to undergraduate students as well. Some colleges will be provide grants to secure enrollment too. Most scholarships are merit based and it is difficult to secure one later in your college experience.

Students and parents often have limited knowledge of the issues that exist with federal and private loans. Parents and students often can’t pay for all of the college costs out of pocket and few have saved for this event too. Parents and students need to understand the limitations of federal vs. private loans.

Federal Loans:
Federal loans require students to fill out the FAFSA form. Undergraduate students require their parents to fill out the FAFSA with them, which includes their tax information too. Based on the information that is provided students can be denied the assistance they actually need. Students will need to declare an appropriate estimated contribution in order to have the best chance of receiving aid.

Positives of federal loans include that they do not require a credit check to be secured (for most federal loans). This allows young individuals with no credit to receive a loan without a cosigner. Federal loans also offer students some strong remedies regarding repayment upon graduation. Federal loans often offer longer periods of payment deferment for a variety of reasons. Federal loans often have lower rates than private loans (usually around 2 to 4%).

Negatives of federal loans include the limitations on the amount you can borrow. If you are pursuing a degree at a college that is extremely pricey you may run out of federal loans within your first semester of an academic school year.

Private Loans:

Positives of private loans include that you can in theory obtain any loan amount that you need. For example, if you need a student loan for $20,000 one semester you can in theory take out a loan for $22,000. This allows you to cover all costs associated with your schooling that will be limited with federal loans.

Negatives of private loans are many. The first negative is that most students can’t obtain a private loan on their own due to no credit history. This requires a cosigner that often leads to issues later on if a student struggles to secure a job. Private loans also have limited deferment and forbearance options, usually limited to about a year. That essentially means if you can’t pay back your loans within a year your only option is to go back to school to receive an in-school deferment because private loan companies don’t care about your financial situation and won’t give you a payment plan based on your earnings like federal loans will. Private loans can also be predatory with their rates (usually around 6 to 8%) which far exceed most student loans.

One tool that has been found useful is Simple Tuition. Simple Tuition provides students and parents the opportunity compare loan options based on their college year and area. Simple Tuition also provides information on choosing a college, scholarships and repayment options for students pursuing college education. For more information on Simple Tuition please feel free to click below.

Results may vary.