To Whom It May Concern,
I am a student at East Carolina University and I am currently in an English 1200 writing class. We are discussing things that we believe to be controversial in present day English and writing. I am writing to you to address the issue I see to be most important; that is the use of rubrics and whether or not they are really helpful to students when it comes to writing. This topic has not received much attention at all and some people do not realize that for some individuals, rubrics are not beneficial. People are under the assumption that they are necessary for grading and also to use as guidelines. I disagree with this claim.
I would like to start by saying that inevitably there are some advantages to rubrics that cannot be ignored. Just to be clear, a rubric is an assessment tool used to evaluate the work of students and is also to be used as a guideline for the students in order for them to know what is expected in their writing. Rubrics make it easier for teachers to grade papers quickly and more consistently, they help clarify their expectations of you in your writing, and they also help teachers point out a student’s strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, there are also disadvantages to rubrics that tend to be overlooked.
My first point is that rubrics are not detailed guidelines. If you were to look at a standard rubric, it only sufficiently expands on things you are to use to make your topic more clear. For example, in order for your information to flow well together, you should have proper use of grammar. After reading such comments, I ask myself, “How is that helpful?”. Those types of suggestions are typically common sense when writing a paper. If you are not clear about your topic, of course you are not going to have a good paper. A lot of teachers think that they can just hand you a rubric and you’re supposed to know what to write and how to write it. I don’t believe this is true for anyone. There has to be more instruction on how you are supposed to construct your paper. Teachers should discuss what your intended goals should be for an assignment. Students should then be able to ask questions; they need to see examples, and they also need constructive criticism. Heidi Andrade’s article, “Teaching with Rubrics, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, helped me to understand the controversy of rubrics more while doing a great job elaborating on her reasoning.
When first handed a rubric, they may appear to be intimidating, for that being proof of personal experience. They are often written by someone who makes them sound more complicated than they have to be. Writing shouldn’t be complicated by guidelines and so called “rules” that we are given on a sheet of paper. Such guidelines only makes the assignment seem harder than it actually is, especially for people like me who do not enjoy writing in the first place. I stress as soon as I get a writing assignment, before I even get a rubric if the teacher gives them. I am not confident in my writing, therefore I do not enjoy it, and I am almost positive that I’m not the only person in the world that feels this way.
While I have been researching this topic, one of my favorite articles is one by Maja Wilson called “Why I won’t be Using Rubrics to Respond to Students’ Writing”. I think the point that she makes is the biggest reason why we should not have to use a rubric when writing a paper. In this article she compares using rubrics as a grading tool to calling and having to talk to an automated computer message system. Maja had an experience where her luggage was lost and she needed to talk to someone at the airport who could help her figure out how to locate it and have it returned. When she called the airport none of the options on the automated system had anything to do with luggage, and talking to a human was also not an option. So how was she supposed to get help with this problem? While agonizing over listening to the computer list of unaccommodating options she had a thought; just like the computer was not responsive to her specific need, rubrics are not responsive to student’s writing. Teachers use them as a grading tool, and all they do is circle an option that is the closest to how they think you did. How does that help the student know what they need improve on, or how they can express themselves differently in their writing? The answer is, it doesn’t; it only makes students feel more frustrated and overwhelmed because they are unsure of what they did wrong.
The last point I would like to make is that many students, including myself, feel as if rubrics constrict your thoughts and the ideas you have for what you are about to write. It is as if rubrics serve as a writing jail. They set guidelines, and if you’re like me, you’re not sure how to approach using them correctly. Some students feel limited by the rubrics they are given. In my English class last semester we actually sat down and co-created a rubric with the teacher, which still seemed to make the project difficult. There was a specific way our paper had to be written, and I found that aggravating because I had my own way of wanting to address the topic. Although I feel as if I did well on the paper that I wrote, I was given a C grade because it wasn’t organized in a way that met the teacher’s expectations. If I can’t write the way I want to, how am I supposed to be original or express my individuality? I don’t believe you can. I find this frustrating when you feel as if your way of constructing a paper makes the content look better than it would the way you are sometimes forced to write it.
In conclusion, I would like for you all to consider these factors now when you are presented to or questioned of the topic of grading rubrics. As I said before, there are some advantages to rubrics, but they can also be hindering as well. This issue tends to be overlooked, and I know this because I had a tough time trying to find the resources to use while writing this letter. I assure you that this topic deserves attention because I feel that I am not the only person who sees this as a problem. Thank you for your time.
Rubrics. Yes? No? Maybe…” Design Doc. WordPress.com, 25 July 2010. Web. 27 Feb. 2012. http://mvenable.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/rubrics-yes-no-maybe/.
“Rubrics.” Http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/. Web. 27 Feb. 2012. http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/intech/rubrics.htm.
Follendore III, Roy D. “The Problem With Rubrics.” Www.noisetoknowledge.com. Noise to Knowledge, 14 Sept. 2006. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://www.noisetoknowledge.com/the_problem_with_rubrics.htm>.
Barnes, Mark. “Rubrics Fail Students as Much as Grades.” ROLE Reversal. Blogger, 21 Aug. 2011. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://resultsonlylearning.blogspot.com/2011/08/rubrics-fail-students-as-much-as-grades.html>.
Andrade, Heide G. “Teaching with Rubrics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Jstor.org. Taylor and Francis, Winter 2005. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.