Annotated Bibliography #2: Rubrics

Annotated Bib. #2

Wilson, Maja. (2006). Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment. Portsmouth, NH:

     Heinemann.

Wilson, a high school English teacher from Ludington, Michigan, calls rubrics the “sacred cow of writing assessment” (3).  Ideally, rubrics promise teachers time saving, management of large paper loads, and organization of the messy process of writing.  But, to Wilson, they don’t always accurately assess a student’s writing. So, ever the student, she researched the history of grading, and ultimately concluded that “writing assessment became linked with ranking to allow certain students into universities and to keep other students out” (26).

Wilson rightly surmises that teachers often grade writing in a deficit model.  We rank it against an external model, and “[w]e look for mistakes, inconsistencies,and unclear thinking to justify which square in the matrix we will circle” (30). After some self discovery, she admits, “Rubrics direct me to read in a way that drains the meaning and joy from teaching writing” (38).

So, she looks at what to replace it with.  She says that “students’ desire to be understood, and the clear, kind, honest articulation of how their words affect us” (68). She presents two models that do not rely on rubrics.  The first is based on Linda Christensen’s work.  She uses a point system:  150 points for the first draft and 300 for the revision. Students have criterion they must meet, and when they do, they earn all the points (81). In Wilson’s class, she has students reflect on their growth as a writer, and this is used as part of their evaluation, as well as questions, conversations, and other readers.

In reviewing the book, I’d give it 3 stars out 5.  I wanted her to get to the point earlier.  She does a nice, but long, job of laying the groundwork for her dissatisfaction with rubrics and the history of grading, but only the last two chapters discuss a different way and the last eleven pages her way.  It is worth a read, but if you want the nitty-gritty, skip to the back.

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