Avoid This Common Mistake When Making Rubrics, Auxiliares de Conversación!

Keep Your Requirements & Rubric Separate

The most common mistake I see teachers make when creating projects is that they spend a great deal of time putting together the description and requirements, and then recycle this information into the assessment rubric.

Don’t do it! This undermines the requirements of your project by making them optional.

Example of Mixing Requirements & Rubric

For example, here’s a project about the Peloponnesian War:

This ISN’T SPARTA (yet)!

This ISN’T SPARTA (yet)!

Driving Question: How has overcoming perceived failures shaped history?

Requirements:

  • Describe the three phases of the so-called “Peloponnesian War”

  • Summarize the lessons learned by the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League

  • Explain which side overcame a perceived failure and how this shaped history

  • Compare this with a more recent event of someone overcoming a perceived failure and how this shaped history

  • Write 1 page double-spaced in English

A teacher might then mistakenly make a rubric that looks roughly like this:

4 Points

Describes the three phases of the so-called “Peloponnesian War” ; Summarizes the lessons learned by the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League; Explains which side overcame a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Compares this with a more recent event of someone overcoming a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Writes around 1 page double-spaced in English

3 Points

Mostly describes the three phases of the so-called “Peloponnesian War” ; Mostly summarizes the lessons learned by the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League; Mostly explains which side overcame a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Mostly compares this with a more recent event of someone overcoming a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Writes 3/4 of a page double-spaced in English

2 Points

Somewhat describes the three phases of the so-called “Peloponnesian War” ; Somewhat summarizes the lessons learned by the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League; Somewhat explains which side overcame a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Somewhat compares this with a more recent event of someone overcoming a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Writes 1/2 of a page double-spaced in English

1 Point

Does not describe the three phases of the so-called “Peloponnesian War” ; Does not summarize the lessons learned by the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League; Does not explain which side overcame a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Does not compare this with a more recent event of someone overcoming a perceived failure and how this shaped history; Writes <1/2 of a page double-spaced in English


So What? This Looks fine!

Take a look at the 2 again. This is equivalent to a 7/10 on a 10 point scale. Look at all of those “somewhats.” And they only need to write 1/2 of what you wanted them to. You’ve essentially just told your students that full completion of the project is NOT necessary for a passing grade. I could get a “1” if I wrote:

In 1492, the Peloponnesians fought a war that was the most grueling war at the time. Thousands died. The result was that many men were killed on both sides and that land was destroyed.
— 1/4 on your project (D on American scale)

OK I See Your Point. How Do I Fix This?

From now on, your “requirements” are not negotiable. They are a checklist, not part of your rubric. When students turn in their projects, have them check-off where each requirement is with you. If a requirement isn’t met, the project is “incomplete,” and that particular element must be added until it is accepted.

Do I give them wiggle room? Look back at that specific requirement—is it a learning objective for the unit that all students should know? If so, then no. If it’s not, then it probably shouldn’t have been a requirement in the first place. Perhaps you create a separate “recommendations” or “options” list.

So what do I put in my rubric then? Here’s a solid “intermediate” level rubric from the Ohio Department of Education’s interpretation of ACTFL standards:

4 Points

Narrates and describes in all major time frames, although not consistently; Uses mostly connected sentences and some paragraph-like discourse; Presented in a clear and organized manner; Illustrates originality, rich details, and an unexpected feature that captures interest and attention of audience; Is generally understood by those unaccustomed to the writing of non-natives, although interference from another language may be evident and gaps in comprehension may occur.

3 Points

Narrates in the present tense consistently; Uses strings of sentences, with some complex sentences (dependent clauses); Presented in a clear and organized manner.; Illustrates originality and features rich details, visuals, and/or organization of the text to maintain audience’s attention and/ or interest; Is generally understood by those accustomed to the speaking/writing of non-natives; Demonstrates significant quantity and quality of Intermediate-level language.

2 Points

Creates with language by combining and recombining known elements; is able to express personal meaning in a basic way. Handles successfully a number of uncomplicated communicative tasks and topics necessary for survival in target-language cultures; Uses simple sentences and some strings of sentences; Presented in a clear and organized manner. Some effort to maintain audience’s attention through visuals, organization of the text, and/or details; Is generally understood by those accustomed to interacting with non-natives, although additional effort may be required; Is most accurate when producing simple sentences in present time. Pronunciation, vocabulary, and syntax are strongly influenced by the native language. Accuracy decreases as language becomes more complex.

1 Point

Has no real functional ability; Uses some simple sentences and memorized phrases; Presentation may be either unclear or unorganized. Minimal to no effort to maintain audience’s attention; Is understood with occasional difficulty by those accustomed to the speak- ing/writing of non-natives, although additional effort may be required; Is most accurate with memorized language, including phrases. Accuracy decreases when creating and trying to express personal meaning.

Preview The Rubric Just Like The Requirements

In order to be transparent in your assessment, make sure to go over this rubric with students just like you did the requirements of the project—that way students know how they can demonstrate mastery.


What do you guys think, auxiliares de conversación? Do you agree with keeping the requirements and rubric separate for projects, or would you do things differently? I’d love to hear your take!