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Cricket and developmental continuums

I vividly remember my husband, who was completing his primary school teaching degree at the time, coming home one night after a class looking both simultaneously hyped and also a bit broken. He started discussing with me a class he had attended that day where he was shown how to write rubrics in a new way - the Patrick Griffin method (for those of you who don't know, I have a crush on Patrick Griffin's book 'Assessment for Teaching'). 

What was weird about this new way of writing rubrics was that it made complete sense and after seeing it, we couldn't look at a rubric that wasn't made this way again (hence the broken feeling). Instead of having descriptors with subjective value judgements, you include objective descriptors about the behaviour that is demonstrated, with each descriptor building on the previous descriptor.

Bad example:

I found this example by googling "rubric presentation". A version of this was one of the top hits with several comments thanking the author for how useful it was (?!?!?!).

0 2 4
Tone of voice Tone needs to be improved Good mastery of tone Excellent mastery of tone
Topic No topic mastery Very good mastery of topic Excellent mastery of topic

 I don't know how anyone could assess a student using this rubric and think it was an accurate assessment of a student's learning.

Improved example:

In this example, I've taken the rubric above and turned it into objective behaviours that can be observed.

Tone of voice insufficient evidence Student can be heard Student varies tone Student varies tone to accentuate points
Topic insufficient evidence Student presents about the topic Student states the cause and effects Student explains the link between the cause and effects


I will be the first to admit that my new rubric doesn't fully conform to the Patrick Griffin's rules, and there are also several other parts that are missing (such as referencing it to a developmental taxonomy such as Boom's, SOLO or Dreyfus), but hopefully it can be seen how much more useful using this type of rubric is. Each descriptor is objective and each descriptor builds on the previous one. A student who varies their tone to accentuate points can't do this unless they can also vary their tone and can be heard. A student who is told they can "state the cause and effects" and then it's explained to them that the next level is to "explain the link between the cause and effects" can see what the next step in the learning is; whereas a student who is told they have a "very good understanding" of a topic has no indication about what is needed to turn it into an "excellent understanding". Additionally, a teacher can now accurately assess a student's exact point of need (or if I'm going to get fancy, their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)). The "insufficient evidence" descriptor is also key as it's not saying a student can't or won't do something, it's saying that you as the assessor don't have enough evidence to make a determination yet. It's amazing how much this helps students to keep trying, finish their work or ask for help.

After having my husband explain this system to me, and show me some other examples from his class, it instantly clicked with me and I couldn't understand why anyone would write a subjective rubric (although I will admit that these rubrics can be tricky to write). Yet, I, and I'm guessing every other teacher and student out there, see them all the time. Frighteningly, I have seen rubrics almost identical to my "bad example" used in year 12 English classes on assessments that partly determine the potential for a student to continue on to university.

I'm not claiming it's easy to write objective, developmental rubrics, but it does get easier over time and I've found it makes it so much easier to plan my classes and differentiate my teaching (we are developing a bank of free rubrics here). Now days, I start my planning by writing a proper assessment rubric of everything I'm looking to teach (skills, content etc.). Each descriptor in the rubric then ends up being a mini lesson or two. I can apply the assessment rubric (or parts thereof) to any form of formative or summative assessment - from conversations I have directly with students to video projects. I can do this because I am looking for objective behaviours. This means that over the course of a unit I can assess every student multiple times, in multiple scenarios, track their development (sales pitch: I use the Auslytics Rubric Analysis Spreadsheet) and easily differentiate my teaching to a students point of need (ZPD). 

If you're interested in going down this track, something I recommend is thinking about the developmental steps in what you do in your everyday life. For example, a few years ago my husband and I were trying to compromise in what we do during our evenings and we found that walking to the park and hitting a cricket ball in the nets suited us both (I wanted to go for a walk and he wanted to run around more). As I am not a cricketer, I was getting frustrated with what I felt he expected me to know (which is not dissimilar to what I expect many of our students feel), so we made a very small developmental continuum for my understanding of cricket:


Vocab insufficient evidence Chloe can identify cricket terminology Chloe can use cricket terminology Chloe can apply cricket terminology to other situations
Skills insufficient evidence Chloe can identify cricket skills Chloe can identify/describe what a properly executed cricket skill looks like Chloe can execute (basic) cricket skills

Again, I'm sure Patrick Griffin would cringe at the imperfectness of my cricket rubric, but it was amazing how much this helped my husband to teach me cricket. He could determine where I was on the continuum and work with me at that level. I then didn't feel the pressure to be learning at a level above where I was. Overall, it meant that a keen cricketer and a novice could enjoy their time together. I feel like I should note that we originally made this developmental continuum partly as a joke - we don't spend all of our time together making rubrics, but it was surprising how much of a difference it made to us.

Cricket bat and ball

I have seen first hand what having this type of rubric / developmental continuum makes to our students. When I was teaching general science in years 7-10, I used our Science Inquiry Skills rubric with my students. They all had a copy, they knew where their learning was going, they could all track their progress (as well as see my tracking) and they could see how much they had learned. Every single one of my students over several years developed either at or above the expected "1 years growth per school year". Every. Single. One.

If you only every buy and read one teacher resource book, please make it Patrick Griffin's 'Assessment for Teaching' (and please Patrick Griffin consider cutting me in on some of the royalties, I am you most loyal fan). If you're short of time, I highly recommend at least reading Chapters 2, 6 and 7.

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