One of the more challenging things about learning something new is to learn what it is we don’t know about what we are trying to learn. Without experience, it is difficult to tell whether we are headed in the right direction in our efforts to learn. For example, at the same time that we might possess one of the component skills of a practice we want to master, we might be completely oblivious to another. Even if we have a broad sense of a larger learning goal, without some help, we can often find it difficult to grasp the strengths and weaknesses of our own attempts to master a practice or learn new knowledge.
Teachers often find that assessment rubrics help guide the efforts of their students to learn. Rubrics identify the broader learning goals of a class, but they also provide more detail about the various levels of performance or knowledge that students might exhibit as they work towards these broader goals. For example, a thoughtfully developed rubric might provide information to help students distinguish a novice, intermediate, or advanced level of skill or level of knowledgeability related to a particular course learning goal. This information can help students identify and understand the nature of their own level of work and can assist them in strategizing ways they can work to develop their varied capacities.
Although many instructors use rubrics rather mechanically as a template for assessing student grades (“You are working at this level of the rubric, therefore you get a B+.”), the deeper value of rubrics comes not so much as a tool for determining grades but as a scaffold for supporting student learning. For a rubric to serve as an effective scaffold, an instructor needs to take time to help students understand how rubrics can best be used. In a busy first class, however, it is often difficult to find enough time to explain the best use of a class rubric. When rubrics are inadequately introduced, students jump to the conclusion that they are just another grading tool. The potential that the rubric has as a scaffold to support their learning can easily become lost.
Lately, many teachers are finding that easy-to-use video production technologies are making it possible to shift (or “flip”) their classes so that students receive information from reading and watching video lectures at home and then using class time for activities that enable students, amongst other things, to:
- connect things learned to their prior experience;
- explore, confront, and change misconceptions;
- practice skills;
- engage in critical thinking;
- explore the consequences of new conceptions for their lives and for the world
- develop rich and robustly interconnected knowledge structures.
For the most part, instructors normally make videos to communicate information related to the content of a course. In my view, however, videos can also be very valuable for fostering the “metacognitive” awareness that students have about their own learning. A video that engages students in thinking about the potential of a rubric to support their learning, for example, can go a long way towards making sure this tool is used to its fullest advantage in a course.
To show how this might be possible, I have produced a YouTube video in which I discuss how students might use a rubric to support their learning in a class. Making the video itself was very easy. I used a handy IPad app called “Explain Everything” that allows me to set a stage with a variety of things I want the video to show (an intro scene and a PDF rubric) and then enables me to narrate a story about the rubric as it shows me drawing attention to parts of the rubric with a pen. In a few short minutes, I can introduce the rubric in a way that, hopefully, reveals its potential as an aid to student learning.
Providing students with a few “learning skills” videos can go a long ways towards fostering capacities for enhanced learning.
Some Web Resources Related to Rubrics
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