Brainmatters | The song that never ends


Teachers regularly team up to reflect on education, educational innovation, on what works, what can be better, must be better. Lately we have also been talking frequently about what can go and must go faster.

So, today we were discussing rubrics. A rubric is an assessment instrument that helps teachers evaluate complex competences. In many cases such a rubric consists of a list of subskills with an appurtenant descriptive scale stating the competence levels reached. In the old days you did not have that, you would simply award a grade based on experience or a gut feeling, but we also learn new things. Rubrics can help students gain insight into what is expected from them and for educators they form a good instrument for grading projects in a structured, almost objective, and also efficient way.

Therefore I also use rubrics. Like a good girl I fill them out after projects and feed back to students what grades they have obtained, ticking the appropriate boxes to substantiate this assessment. Once that assessment has been given, that ends the course and the book is closed. Which is also a bit of a pity: it defines the end of our trip. It is only at the very end of the route that I use them, though.

During a project my working method is different: I look, I listen, ask questions, give feedback on the process, on the papers produced. Of course, I also say what I think is going well and what is not, but I also ask students how they have experienced this themselves. I reflect on the best way to help a student or a group of students move forward or how I can challenge them more. That is a very personal note and it relates to our path towards something good, something beautiful or special, not towards the end of that journey.

We have jointly decided on civil disobedience

In between grading projects and examinations I also conduct lots of annual talks with co-workers. A new form has been designed for this purpose. Apart from the topics of conversation that are obligatory and room for both the co-worker and the superior to reflect on them, the forms have since this year displayed assessment scales per subskill. This has resulted in a squeeze in my mind, though: I regard an annual talk as a coaching discussion, not an appraisal interview. If I did not do things right, that is the occasion on which I must be told so, but the talk should also be about dreams, ambitions and how they may be reached. Together. So I don’t want to give or get a rubric, or a grade.

And I have great colleagues: we have jointly decided on civil disobedience in this respect. Our trip is not finished and we are not going home yet. The song that never ends!

Yvonne de Kort is Professor of Environmental Psychology at Human-Technology Interaction

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