I recently attended the second annual Expanding the Circle conference, an inspirational and informative national conference sponsored by CIIS and held at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, which focused on “creating an inclusive environment in higher education for LGBTQ students and studies.” In one of the concurrent sessions on assessment, "Measuring LGBTQ Student Success and the Role of Assessment in Academic and Student Affairs," I “came out” as a person who enjoys creating rubrics. Given the tenor of the conversation during that meeting, and the perceived level of interest in rubrics at CIIS, I believe this is a minority position.
For me, filling in the cells of a rubric matrix is a challenging brainteaser. It's fun to think about what exceptional performance and very poor performances looks like, and then wrestle with the spectrum of performances between the two. I offer the following row of cells on the hard to define, but clinically important dimension of presence, from a recent rubric that the Integral Counseling Psychology department created to use in our admissions process. (Presence is one of seven dimensions considered.)
|Is engaged in the moment even if nervous. Is fully "alive" in the role play as therapist and client, Exhibits a non-defensive openness and personal clarity.||Mostly engaged. Performance anxiety may limit interview, but it is acknowledged. Makes "good enough" connection. Is able to show vulnerability.||Not fully "here" in interview, is in and out. May or may not acknowledge anxiety but can't transcend it. Shows a limited capacity for revealing self, insensitive to others.||Presents as disconnected or vague. May be reactive in interview, and be brittle when challenged. Seems unaware of self in the moment. Emotionally unavailable.|
I can understand the resistance to rubrics, much as I can understand why people don't warmly embrace thinking in terms of mission, goals, and objectives. It seems to smack of a corporatization of The Academy, and a move toward the science of teaching and away from the art of this profession.
In actually working within this paradigm over the past seven years, my experience has been different. I've come around to sensing that it's fair to spell out what we expect students to gain from our classes, and it seems fair to then assess them based on transparent, understandable, and consistent variables.
Rubrics help students understand what is expected of them in relatively concrete ways. A well- constructed and well-utilized rubric gives a student or trainee a sense of where they are, and a reasonably defined sense of where improvement lies.
A major roadblock to the creation of clear and creative rubrics is that it takes time. It takes time to struggle with the nuances that differentiate fair performance from good performance, and it takes time to get feedback on the drafts, as well as consensus within the faculty as to the accuracy of the measures that are produced. I found the free website Rubistar to be particularly helpful. As a non-tech guy, I also found that Rubistar was easy to use (and they give examples).
Thus, if you want to generate a set of expectations for writing assignments which you can use and modify semester after semester, or if you want to specify levels of attainment of counseling skills, consider creating a rubric. The effort may help you clarify your thinking, provide more transparent measures of performance and/or growth, and help generate quantifiable data for assessment. I hope this was helpful for you, for me it’s a reminder to get back to work on those Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) that we have identified for our Final Integrative Seminar class.