Rubrics and formative evaluation

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Many people still believe that evaluating with rubrics is formative evaluation and, in many cases, it is not. A rubric, in fact, provides clear criteria when evaluating a task. Now, this can be done so that the student detects his mistakes and his strong points and reflects on his learning (formative evaluation) or it can be done simply mechanically to grade tasks (summative or certifying evaluation).

I do not renounce either of the two, whether for formative evaluation or for summative evaluation, using rubrics is always positive. The student knows the criteria that will be used to evaluate a task. And that is always positive.

Now, since we use the rubrics, let’s use them making formative evaluation, that there are a thousand studies that show that it is one of the measures that most improves the learning of the students. And what exactly does it mean to make formative evaluation with rubrics?

First: only if students have already used rubrics before, it will be necessary for them to create the rubric themselves. The reflection that involves thinking about which aspects of a task or a skill should be assessed and defining, as a minimum, the expert level does provide clear elements of learning. Before starting to carry out the task (or shortly after starting it) we provoke the students to reflect on what they are carrying out. And this reflection leads them to assess whether what they are doing corresponds to what was expected or whether it is necessary to introduce improvements.

Second: if they have created the rubric, it is obvious, but if the rubric is created by us, it is essential that they have it beforehand and can make it their own. It needs to be written in such a way that they can understand and that it helps them to detect the most common errors.

Third: the rubric must be used several times without using numerical punctuation. If you are presenting an object, you can use the rubric to make an initial qualitative evaluation that will allow you to make improvements. The same applies if you are working on a skill (speaking in public, summarising a text…). The rubric without qualification will allow them to see what they can improve. And, if they do, their learning will improve. Later, it will be used with quantitative scoring if necessary.

Fourth: arrived already on the day of the final delivery (some day you must make the delivery or evaluation of a skill to certify), involve them. If students evaluate each other (co-evaluation) and evaluate themselves (self-evaluation), the rubric will continue to have formative functions. As students evaluate the tasks or skills of other classmates, they are reflecting on what the task or skill should look like. Therefore, they continue on the path of learning.

If, in addition, the teachers use and it serves us to obtain a final grade when the evaluation closes (summative evaluation), perfect. The student will have a greater sense of justice and will understand the grade better. How many teachers who go to competitive examinations would not want to be able to see the rubric with which they have evaluated them, even if they cannot change anything.

But it must be clear that this last step, that of using a rubric to make a final evaluation, has nothing to do with formative evaluation. Let us be disappointed, when a pupil has given a task which he can no longer improve and we give him a grade, no matter how much rubric accompanies it, there will be no reflection on the errors made or improvement in learning.

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