More concretely, I don’t think about rubrics, for example, as they relate to teaching, I think about them as they do or do not make a difference in the world, or do or do not support students in making a difference in their world. If I’m asked why I don’t like rubrics, I might answer that rubrics not only provide a false promise of equity and fairness, but they also pinion the relationship between a student and their teacher, and a student and their learning.
But the real trouble with rubrics is that rubrics are a red herring, a symptom but not the underlying problem. Aspirin for our headache. As a way to navigate the system and process of education we’ve adopted culturally, rubrics can be useful. But they placate us into thinking that the model of learning and teaching we enact is: first, successful, and second, the only model.
Mood: Rubrics, behaviorism, surveillance, compliance, and stress aren’t a learning culture worth showing up for.
It’s a tall order, I realize. But that’s why student blogs are awesome. It gives students a chance to practice writing in a virtually fail free zone, and they learn important lessons not just about reading and writing, but themselves as writers and what it takes to craft engaging, effective writing. But the freedom of blogging is what makes this type of self-evaluation and practice possible.
Think of blogging as the anti in-class essay.
Of course, you can focus student blogs on any topic, theme, or style to meet any academic purpose, but for me, blogging frees my students from the constraints of what they believe assigned essays should sound like.
For starters, there’s no official rubric or handbook, the style is incredibly familiar, and the pressure of page length is off. Because blogs offer students creative control of layout and themes, it’s this same ownership that encourages not just a unique layout but a considered style and voice in their writing.
My students are discovering over time that who you are on paper is who you are, so they strive to show how interesting and intelligent they are with the voice and style of their writing.
In our blogging project, students have taken cues from mentor texts we’ve studied in class, but just as importantly, they’ve paid attention to the writing of others, both professional and non. They’ve assessed what works, what doesn’t work, and what makes for an interesting and engaging post. And blogging provides them a safe space to play with different craft moves they might not try in class.