If someone wants something from me – a product or a performance, I’ve always been someone to do my best to deliver whatever is expected. The one caveat is that I need to be clear about what’s expected before I have a shot at delivering. Sometimes I’m shy about asking for an example or a very detailed description but that’s the best way to ensure that I get it right. That is the purpose of a rubric, i.e. to be clear about what is expected and to ensure the best chance of delivering. However, a rubric goes a couple steps further. It provides some insights to a performance or product if it isn’t quite perfect. It helps to identify the characteristics of a performance that falls short of exemplary.
Rubrics have most recently been used by teachers in traditional classroom settings. How often is it used by teachers in nontraditional settings? For example, how often do teaching artists or instructors in community organizations use the tool that will make their expectations as transparent as possible for students? What gets in the way of their using them even if the benefit is quite clear?
The teaching artist might find the creation of rubrics a bit overwhelming especially if teaching is only a small part of their overall professional role. To create a rubric an artist/instructor must reflect first on exactly how he/she will recognize a high quality performance. That reflection then has to be articulated in descriptive words that a student will understand. While obviously beneficial to determine and articulate the description ahead of time, the visiting artist might well find creating a rubric from scratch to be a large expense of time.
Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) provides already-created rubrics with each and every one of its 360+ assessments. They are free and easily accessible through maeia-artsednetwork.org. It’s important to recognize that the MAEIA rubrics are created to specifically align with the assessment with which it is listed. While all 360+ rubrics are well written by Michigan educators, they are not generic in nature. However, they do provide a starting point for the visiting artist who may not have the time or inclination to learn the skill of creating a rubric.
To locate an appropriate MAEIA rubric, a teaching artist or instructor would first search the assessment catalogue on maeia-artsednetwork.org in the major discipline about which they are teaching; dance, music, theater and visual arts. The list can be filtered down further by grade level. A long list of assessments appear on the screen. The teaching artist can click on and review each assessment that peaks their interest or relates to the skills on which the artist/instructor and the student(s) are working. After finding and clicking on an appropriate assessment, a rubric is visible that was created for that particular assessment. It is an easy and free access to a large range of already-created rubrics.
An easily-accessible rubric does not guarantee that is will fit exactly with the performance or product expectations of the teaching artist. It is only a carefully created articulation of outcomes in a table form. The indicators on the left may need to change or be eliminated altogether. The descriptions of each quality level may also need to be tweaked. Both indicators and quality descriptors will need to reflect the expectations of the teaching artist who is doing the teaching.
In summary, even a non-traditional teacher like a teaching artist or studio instructor can clarify the expectations that they have for their students by using a rubric. They can help the student understand what they are seeking and what it looks like to do well. A teacher serving in a non-traditional role doesn’t need to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of starting from scratch to create a rubric. Hundreds of rubrics are posted with associated assessments on maeia-artsednetwork.org. The critical issue is to find one that most closely aligns with your instruction and expected performance or outcomes. That may take a bit of work using the search feature in the assessment catalogue but, once one is found, it is totally permissible to download it and revise it in ways that fit your expectations of your students.
Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the pleasure of working with educators in the MAEIA project over the last 6 years.
A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: Cheryl L. Poole A Value of a Rubric.