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.

Student Generated Assessment Rubrics

On Twitter, I was asked about the rubrics that I created with my classes, but it was while I was away from my laptop, and so I said I’d write a long-overdue blog post to show some examples. I worked with students a couple of years ago at the beginning of the year on how we could develop good, general rubrics that would be used for our assessments throughout the year. I already had some ideas based on what others have done, and what CPM suggested, but it was nice to work with students on what would make sense to them. We discussed as a large group in each of my classes what qualities showed mastery of a standard skill, and how we could demonstrate that on an assessment, and then how we could describe it in our own language. I used a fake assessment with a variety of fake student responses, and we debated how to sort them into different scores. With some discussion, there was unanimity about how many points (out of 4) each assessment should receive.

That led to three rubrics, one for each of my subject areas (Algebra 1, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus) that I was able to use throughout the year for each assessment. My assessments are designed to measure a student ability on one particular standard or skill. Since I do teach in a private school, I have a fair amount of flexibility on what I am teaching, and am not required to stick to Common Core standards. In any unit, I will have between 3-8 assessments, and each of those assessments is between 2-5 questions. These replace the larger unit tests, and they are in many ways similar to quizzes, except that students are able to retake assessments for any skill, as many times as they choose (until the end of a semester) to demonstrate their growth and mastery of each skill. I’ve seen a number of different excellent variations on this (which I may link to at a later time when/if I get around to a general post on Standards Based Grading). This post is specifically about the rubrics, though.

And speaking of rubrics, here they are.

Algebra 1:


Alg1 Rubric


Geom Rubric.JPG

Pre-Calculus: (Note: Pre-Calculus is a little different, because it uses a 6 point rubric. This is because I have an opt-in honors component. All students who are not electing to take on the Honors component of the class are scored on a 4 point scale (although scores of 5 and 6 will count as slight extra credit, and if a student is always getting scores of 5 or 6, I will keep encouraging them to take on the Honors assignments.) Students who are taking the class as an Honors class are graded on the 6 point scale, and have an in-depth assignment for each unit that explores some additional depth or breadth of a unit.)

Pre-Calc Rubric

I hope this helps – it’s just a quick overview, but it’s a great activity that helps students really understand how they are being evaluated, and I love that I’m no longer taking away a point here and a point there for every little thing that doesn’t actually say anything about how well a student has mastered a particular concept.