Update: Here’s a Storify story with as much of the conversation on Twitter as I can capture:
This year we assembled a panel of students at the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Vancouver Summit we hosted at Mulgrave School. The thinking was, it’s about time we talked to our customers, so to speak.
We had 5 high school students students from three local schools sitting round the table blue-sky-ing the future school. I’ll be posting more of their thoughts later but I thought I’d start with this bomb: the students hate rubrics!
Rubrics are the bread and butter of assessment these days. The IB Diploma program, for example, depends on them. One student did say that on the upside, rubrics provide some security against teacher bias (real or perceived.) But, all of the kids said, rubrics feel too standardized: “We want something more personal than a number or letter that refers to some canned comment.”
Good rubrics are built by students and teachers, collaboratively, so this comment from the kids might mean we’re not doing a good enough job consulting the major stakeholders in the assessment. My sense was, however, that this was not the problem and that students were touching on something much deeper. As Yong Zhao said in the summit keynote, so long as outcomes–whether employable skills or university entrance requirements–are prescribed by an external body, schooling becomes an exercise in squeezing all students through the “sausage-making machine.” It’s an impersonal activity, by definition, because in this structure we are not cultivating personal talents but rather bending and shaping people to meet some externally determined standard.
For an outstanding example of what cultivating talent looks like, watch this video of Benjamin Zander teaching a 15-year old student to play cello. It remains the best teaching I’ve seen. “You can give an “A” to anybody,” says Zander. Listen to him explain what great teaching and assessment look like at about 5:45 on.
I recall reading somewhere of a study that suggested that rubrics did not actual provide any more objectivity or consistency that good teacher judgement: the same student essays were given to two different groups of teachers with one group using a rubric and the second, their good judgement. The study reported no statistically significant difference in the scoring. If anyone can get their hands on this or similar research I’d be grateful.
Also, five students are admittedly a ridiculous small sample size. I think I need to at least send out a quick poll to increase the numbers and draw on a more representative sample.