Reducing Anxiety by Introducing Assessment Rubrics

In my classes, I use rubrics to score assessments. They are scored on a scale from 0 to 4, and usually at the beginning of the year we spend part of a class going over what the rubric means, and I show examples of assessments with a score of 1, 2, 3, and 4. This year, though, I did something different. This mostly happened because I found out that our classes yesterday were going to be 30 minutes instead of 50 minutes, due to a morning assembly. I didn’t want my first day of assessments for my Algebra 1 class (which doesn’t meet on Fridays) to be a shorter class period, after an unusual morning, so I changed things up a little.  Yesterday and today, in my two Algebra 1 classes, I decided to get the students more involved in this process.

Since my rubrics are scored from 0 to 4, I split the students into 4 random groups. (We do random visible groups every day, but there are usually 5 groups.) The groups are numbered from 1 to 4. Each group had a goal – to get a score that corresponded with their group number.

It turned out that this was an amazing activity in so many ways. I heard students discussing the two problems on the assessment right away, and discussing how to answer it first, before focusing on what it would take to get the score they needed. In many cases, they were scoring too high. After some discussion with me, they were able to revise the work to better match their scores.

When each group was satisfied with their solution, they shared them on the board. After a short discussion with each group’s presentation, we had a short discussion. I spoke with the class as a whole and with individual students, and heard a lot of things. Many of the students felt much more confident in their abilities to both do the math in general and do the math in an assessment situation after seeing what they looked like. In addition, they had a lot of fun trying to figure out what kinds of mistakes they would need to make in each case to get a score of a 1, 2, or a 3. Furthermore, all the students that I spoke with felt that they had less anxiety at this point around the assessment process because they knew better what to expect and where they were.

My basic rubric explanation (in student-friendly language) for Algebra 1:

Algebra 1 Rubric Explanation

For the first problem on this practice assessment, I used the following (adapted from the IM curriculum). This is a score of 0:

Alg1 Assessment 1.1 Score 0

(I did that one. As I told the class, pictures are always appreciated, but unless they are relevant to the problem, they won’t change the score. If they do demonstrate clarity and understanding, though, they will serve as evidence that will justify improving a score.)

Here’s the work from groups 1-4:

I love how this shows a progression. Group 1’s “solution” has numbers circled and some boxes drawn. They also discussed making histograms and dot plots and finding an average.

Group 2’s shows the Q1, Median, and Q3 values circled and a box drawn with those values mostly in mind.

Group 3 has a nicely drawn boxplot, although the minimum value is a bit off. The biggest thing that group is missing, though, is the indication of an understanding of vocabulary.

Group 4 has a perfect boxplot, and they have used the relevant vocabulary to describe the numbers used.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the first real assessments go next week, but I’m pretty optimistic that they will go well. From what I heard from the kids in my classes, they seem pretty optimistic as well.