Unraveling the effects of rubrics and exemplars on student writing performance is a new research paper that compares…rubrics and exemplars – which are more effective in helping students produce better writing. Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall, though I was able to gain access to it.
It basically concludes that using rubrics are slightly more effective than just showing students exemplars, both are better than just telling students to try their best, and that showing them rubrics and exemplars together are a bit much and don’t really help.
Unfortunately, there are some problems with this study.
First, it showed students rubrics and examples after they wrote their first draft. The paper tries to explain why they did it then, but their explanation didn’t make much sense to me. Maybe they are out there, but I know of no teachers who would do this on their own – I believe, instead, we would discuss the success criteria before students begin to work on their assignment. In fact, I believe that most of my students would be pretty angry if I didn’t show it to them before they began writing.
Secondly, this research ignores previous studies finding that, if you are going to use a rubric, students should create the rubric together with the teacher.
Third, it completely ignores paying explicit attention to the wording of the rubric and ensuring it doesn’t use deficit language. I believe it’s very important to ensure we use “improvement rubrics” – when we use them.
These are pretty major shortcomings. Ordinarily, with these issues, I’d just ignore the research and not write a post about it.
However, there are two key points in it that I think are, indeed, worth highlighting.
When people talk about exemplars, more often then not they talk about sharing the best examples. Past research, though, has found that it’s important to show both good and bad ones. Though you have to look hard for it in the paper, the authors do make that point.
The most important part of this research, I think, is one that is important for all of us teachers to remember – if you don’t go over the details of a rubric or exemplars with students – and how to use them, neither will work well. When we do use a teacher-created rubric, or show examples, I think many of us – including me – tend to rush through them with students instead of modeling how to use these tools to improve our work.
I’m adding this info to The Best Rubric Sites (And A Beginning Discussion About Their Use).