In assessment, my goal is to provide very clear goals and paths for achieving them. I do not "grade on a curve" and I will not compare students to each other. If every student fulfills the requirements I lay out in my syllabus and in this rubric, I would be thrilled to give every student in a course a 4.0.
This "Rubric" offers a description of prototypical students in terms of the attitudes and behaviors that are important for successful learning. It does not represent any specific criteria for evaluation or assigning grades.
The 4.0 Student - An Outstanding Student
- Participation: 4.0 students are reliable and engaged participants. Their commitment to the class resembles that of the teacher.
- Preparation: 4.0 students are prepared for class. They always read assignments fully. Their attention to detail is such that they occasionally catch the teacher in a mistake. They always participate in class.
- Curiosity: 4.0 students show interest in the class and in the subject. They look up or dig out what they don't understand. They often ask interesting questions or make thoughtful comments.
- Retention: 4.0 students have retentive minds. They are able to connect past learning with the present. They bring a background with them to class.
- Attitude: 4.0 students have a winning attitude. They have both the determination and the self-discipline necessary for success. They show initiative. They do things they have not been told to do.
- Results: 4.0 students make high grades on work in courses. Their work is a pleasure to grade.
The 3.0 Student - A Good Student
- Participation: 3.0 students participate most of the time. Academics sometimes compete with other priorities.
- Preparation: 3.0 students are usually prepared for class. They try to participate in class discussion.
- Curiosity: 3.0 students have some interest in the subject and ask questions when they do not understand.
- Retention: 3.0 students will frequently make connections among different ideas in the course and occasionally with other ideas from outside.
- Attitude: 3.0 students desire to master the course material. They are active participants. They occasionally show initiative and seek out additional topics related to the course.
- Results: 3.0 students usually improve over the duration of the course with increasing grades on course work as they master the material and become more efficient in their work.
The 2.0 Student - A Fair Student
- Participation: 2.0 students often fail to participate effectively. Too often they put other priorities ahead of academic work.
- Curiosity: 2.0 students ask few questions and show little interest in course readings and class discussion.
- Preparation: 2.0 students prepare their assignments consistently but in perfunctory manner. Their work may be sloppy or careless. At times, it is incomplete or late.
- Attitude: 2.0 students are not visibly committed to the class. They participate without enthusiasm. Their body language often expresses boredom.
- Results: 2.0 students obtain mediocre or inconsistent results on tests. They have some concept of what is going on but clearly have not mastered the material.
The 1.0 Student - A Student in Difficulty
- Participation: 1.0 students frequently fail to participate, sometimes a majority of the time. When they miss class, they often fail to find out what was covered in class or even what work was assigned.
- Curiosity: 1.0 students rarely ask questions and often hope not to be noticed during class discussion.
- Preparation: 1.0 students prepare their work in a slipshod fashion. Sometimes they miss assignments and fail to follow directions on others. Work is submitted late.
- Attitude: 1.0 students are uncommitted to the class. They may be in the course only because it is required or because the other alternatives are worse. They are frequently bored by the class and show it. They have poor study habits and try to minimize their study time in the course.
- Results: 1.0 students demonstrate little understanding of course material on papers, class work, and exams. They fail to complete many assignments and rarely participate in class discussions unless forced to do so.
In formal papers, I will always ask you to connect something you have experience or knowledge about to course material.
A successful paper will both present your topic of interest and demonstrate that you understand and have read, learned, and engaged with the course material deeply. A "4.0" paper will tell a compelling story and will engage with, and improve upon, the course material to teach an audience that includes me, and your classmates, and other students taking this class in future years, how to take advantage of course material. The very best papers will give us all a new understanding of some aspect of course material and change the way I teach some portion of this course in the future.
- 4.0—Excellent: Writing demonstrates impressive understanding of readings, discussions, themes and ideas. Written work is fluid, clear, analytical, well-organized and grammatically polished. Reasoning and logic are well-grounded and examples precise.
- 3.0—Good: Work demonstrates a thorough and solid understanding of readings, discussions, themes and ideas. Written work is clear and competent, but is somewhat general, a bit vague, or otherwise lacking in precision. While analytical, writing presents more description than analysis. Arguments are solid but not thoroughly original or polished.
- 2.0—Fair: Work demonstrates a somewhat fragmented understanding of readings, discussions, themes and ideas. Shows acquaintance with readings and ideas, but not intellectual engagement. Written work is choppy and argument somewhat difficult to follow, examples are vague or irrelevant, and ideas are imprecise. Work veers toward underdeveloped ideas, off-topic sources or examples, personal anecdotes, creative writing, memoir, etc.
- 1.0—Unsatisfactory: Work demonstrates little understanding or even acquaintance with readings, discussions, themes and ideas. Written work is choppy, fractured and unclear. Argument follows little logical development, or work presents little discernible argument whatsoever.
- 0.0—Failure / Unacceptable: Work does not demonstrate understanding of topics, ideas and readings. This is also the grade for work not submitted and plagiarized work.
If you need help improving your writing, the Oodegard Writing & Research Center has many resources that can help.
An excellent student satisfies all of these criteria. Also, participation is one of the most subjective activities to assess. Hence, you should ask yourself: am I consistently making a positive contribution and impression on the instructor and other students?
Participation: Are you an active participant in class?
Even if you are absent for a good reason: if you aren't present, you can't participate.
Preparation: Do you read the assignments fully with attention to detail? Do you note relevant ideas, questions, or current events in class and online?
For example, you might forward a news story to the class with a question for discussion.
- Engagement: Do you make at least one excellent contribution (e.g., insight or question) to each class without monopolizing discussion? (see section on participation balance below). Do you give active nonverbal and verbal feedback? Do you refer to other students by name and react to their contributions?
- Activity: Do you fully engage in group exercises? Do you follow up on open questions and share your findings with the class?
Maintaining Participation Balance
In a nutshell: Be wary of speaking three times before everyone has had a chance and make sure you make at least one good contribution.
In any group there will be those who speak more and those who speak less; this might be because of differences in personality, language fluency, or culture. For instance, some people like to carefully think before they speak and some believe that interaction should be rapid and assertive. I want everyone to participate and I believe it's worthwhile to achieve balance in classroom discussion.
When I was a student, I tended to dominate conversation. My friend Joseph Reagle shared two strategies that I've found helpful:
- In classes where I was excited about the topic, I tried to be mindful of how much I spoke when I realized others had interesting things to say but were not as quick to speak. We are often uncomfortable with a little silence, including teachers, and speak to fill the void. However, teaching and facilitation guides recommend that we be open to such spaces: take a couple of breaths, or even say “take two minutes to think about this.” So I began a practice of pacing myself, limiting myself to three really good responses in class, and then make sure others have had time before jumping in — if at all — to contribute.
- In classes where I was less motivated, I found that if I could still usually come up with one good comment or question that nobody else raised. In thi way, I could still make a contribution to class — and lessen my chance of being cold called.
Joseph calls these two techniques the rule of three and one for balanced discussion.
Additionally, you can be a skillful communicator by encouraging balanced discussion. For instance, notice if a person or group is hasn't said much. Without putting anyone on the spot, ask them a question or respond to something they said. (Use people's names!) Or, say you'd like to hear from someone who hasn't spoken yet, or ask the group to pause so as to collect their thoughts.
Credit for this Rubric
Much of this is borrowed or adapted from Joseph Reagle from these pages:
- Achieving Balance in Group Discussion
- Writing: Rubric Dimensions
- Assessment: Comprehensive Rubric
Reagle kindly makes his material available for anybody that wants to reuse and share under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License and I happily distribute my own modifications under those terms as well.