Cross Post: Re-thinking Rubric Design #coetail


Over the last few months I’ve been exploring how visuals could be used as a tool for learning particularly in student assessment.

A lot of teacher time and effort goes into creating rubrics. Here’s an example of something I was using this time last year.


There’s some colour that connects to the traffic-light rubric we’ve been using with the kids. However, for a Year 4 student there’s a boat load of text to decipher.

I’ve often wondered what goes around in kids head’s when they self-assess.

Are the children just circling ideas to keep the teacher happy or are they really thinking about what they’ve learned?

With the advent of apps like doodlecast, where children can record their voice as they fill in their rubric, that process became a lot more visible.

My initial hunch, that the self-assessment rubric wasn’t effective, proved correct.   There were some insights, but mostly they were parroting back the words the teacher had given them. The insight from this student that the understood form, because they were a very formal person, made me chuckle but it didn’t really make any connection to the rich learning I knew had taken place.

I wondered, could I make this document more child-friendly?

What if I the rubric was redesigned inforubric, replacing a text-heavy document with images from the noun project to scaffold children’s judgements.

My thinking  was that by using symbols to display concepts, the children would need to put into the words what they had learned. The children coloured in where they thought they were before the unit then returned at the end of the unit to see the shifts in their learning.

But again, while the kids were saying they felt that they had learned something. What the kids had learned and how they knew that they had learned it was absent from the reflection. What was the action this student took that helped her develop empathy? Why did she feel she wasn’t tolerant.

I was going to shelve the idea of the inforubric as a concept that just didn’t work. However, Daniel Wilson’s plenary session at Project Zero Classroom over the summer had me thinking about documentation.

The problem with the rubric was that the children weren’t making the connection to all those powerful learning moments I saw in class when it came to reflect back on their learning.

Was I waiting too long for the children to document their experiences, could we be making links into the reflection process a whole lot earlier?

I also wondered if I the children could use other resources in the self-assessment process.

My class takes a lot of photos.

Not only do I take a lot of pictures of learning, but the kids, my classroom assistant and even the parents. I’ve been a long time user of Flickr as a way to centrally store photos. The kids simply tag photos of themselves and photos they’ve taken into a folder.

I wondered if the photos might leader to a richer conversation around learning. Each child in my class has a folder that they document important parts of their learning. Alongside the rubric I asked the children to find photos of their learning to serve as a visual prompt for of their experiences for a mid-unit reflection.

Finally I feel like the process is starting to become a lot more useful. When I looked at the three lines of inquiry for this unit:

  • Why people explore (Causation)
  • The results of exploration (Change)
  • Our responsibility to the places we explore and discover (Responsibility)
I realised that this child really had made a connection with all three and linked it back to her own experience. I don’t think this would have been as powerful, especially for some of my weaker writers, if they had written a reflection or circled elements on a rubric.

For the children being able to choose the pictures, to find photos that mattered to them, was an important part of the documentation process. The photography put me as a teacher (or parent for that matter) in the moment with the individual child. Some kids chose the same picture which leads into how we can experience the same moment differently.

The child’s voice can give away a lot of unintended data. One of the children wasn’t taking the task seriously. As the class listened to his reflection, several of the other children pointed out that the child hadn’t shown respect, which was one of the attitudes we were looking to develop during the unit. We agreed that the voice element enabled us to identify a learning need that otherwise would have been hidden.

Photography is a way for children to document their learning in small, micro ways. With the addition of voice, the capturing of image can give rich portraitures of student learning.

from Teaching the Teacher

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