You wouldn’t think, would you, that setting rules and strict guidelines of what is expected of you could bring freedom. Rafael Moreno, assistant professor of geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has found that using rubrics in his Sustainability in Resources Management course is actually liberating for his students.
"The final project of what the rubric is for is very hard to define given that it is relative to the specific social and environmental contexts for the selected case study,” he says. “The rubric gives the parameters for what is a good paper, a not so good paper and a terrible paper.”
The assignment is a critical review report of a sustainable development project that is due at the end of the semester. Moreno has found that students do a better job of planning, addressing and working on each of the points in their report when the expectations and deadlines for progress reports are set at the beginning of the term.
“I use the rubric as a tool to help students see how the body of knowledge that we are building in the course can be applied to analyze a real world sustainable development project,” Moreno explains. “They serve as a point of reference to understand and resolve disagreements on the grade assigned to an activity.”
The rubric itself is an ever-evolving document, Moreno says. Faculty must be careful to provide direction without limiting creativity and exploration of different approaches. It’s also tough to incorporate everything that is relevant and break it down into performance expectations.
That’s when feedback comes into play. Moreno notes that it is important to gather insight from students on the clarity and value of the rubrics to continually improve them. This feedback should be sought during and at the end of the semester when they are used. Also, valuable feedback can be obtained from former and graduating students long after the semester is completed.
Moreno’s discussion on rubrics can be found on the Elixr Merlot site or the Center for Faculty Development at http://ucdenver.edu/facultydevelopment.