Today I am trying to summarise my thoughts about rubric-based planning prior to sharing with two experienced teachers next week. Through this I intend to lay out some of my assumptions of traditional PGCE-based planning (something that is content-based), and the benefits of rubric planning (something that is criteria-based). I should (although have yet to!) make explicit the research that I have based these thoughts on. However, in the meantime I am happy to focus on the logistics of such planning so it seems specific, relevant and rigorous to busy teachers who have precious little time to reflect on established routines.
And so, I deem the traditional style of planning as ‘content’ based. The term content here refers to two types of content:
a) Content in terms of the curriculum. Students may need to complete a set number of texts, or cover specific periods in history.
b) Content in terms of the resources available. A particularly effective resource or text book may determine what is taught (or even how), especially for newer teachers.
There has been criticism of a seeming desire to move aware from content and onto developing skills (i.e. making a subject like history about developing skills rather than ‘just learning dates). My judgement is that the skills cannot be rigorously practised and honed without the content being taught (and that didactically where necessary).
Suffice to say, then, content here refers largely to using a text book or resources that are available to the department. This style of planning is common. If you look on the Times Educational Supplement (TES) you will see an incredible amount of resources, and a number of threads, all totalling in their 10,000s, about teachers trying to ‘find something to teach’. Equally, a profitable website teachit.co.uk sells resources for ‘busy teachers’ in the form of ready-made questions and worksheets. Across the internet and via £100s of text books, many more resources have been created for teachers to dispense.
These resources are useful. But I think they have created an impression that planning is content based. That is, you find something to teach, and you teach it. That is, the students will learn if you teach/perform well (often via modelling). Ultimately, I think this leads to the idea that by following a short-term scheme of work with every class is a desirable situation. While this has its benefits (I once planned out/allocated every lesson for every class for a year in a new curriculum, and appreciated it), it does not personalise the work for the class. I have heard it said that if a teacher planned rigorously three years ago, they need not plan for today. That is, for me, one of the assumptions of content base planning.
Below I summarise content based planning, before comparing it to criteria-based planning.
1) Teacher is required to cover a certain skill/topic. The teachers selects a resource, either from a textbook or created elsewhere. They may personalise it using ICT.
The resource may be determined by the finances of the department, and/or the skills and time of the teacher.
They may select prior work from a pre-bought (or externally-planned SoW).
2) Teacher decides how the resource is to be delivered. Often this involves nuances of modelling or timings of the lesson. Work might be differentiated through editing by ICT, or translation of keywords.
This step also counts the revision of the subject knowledge by the teacher.
3) Students complete tasks in lesson and hand to teacher.
The students have a sense of achievement in terms of working through the allocated work.
4) Teacher marks work (sometimes on the basis of once every 4-5 weeks). Students read comments. Precisely written comments will instigate change in those students able to understand and reflect upon them, given time.
2) Task is matched to curriculum and criteria (no matter what it says above!) Therefore, one rubric might be created every 3-4 lessons (more if useful). Rubric may reinterpret specific criteria from exam materials, and repeat such criteria over a period so pupils gain skill and confidence in dealing with such criteria.
3) Students complete the tasks. The task specifically involving the rubric is self-marked with terms from the rubric, and peer-marked with terms from the rubric. The tasks surrounding the rubric-based task support activation of necessary. In addition, the students might complete the work.
4) Rubric-based work is marked that week (or fortnight) and targets given. Students immediately respond to targets with an attempt to improve that specific piece of work (or writing how they would do so). If improved specifically, the student can either change their rubric mark (if the change is minor), or (if using an electronic markbook) be granted another column to indicate a later improvement.
The ultimate decision a teacher needs to make is how much gains can be made by the student depending on the time allocated to the planning. The key transition for the teacher in the above model is between 4 and 1 – their planning is directly informed by the students’ recent achievement. However, the key transition for the student is between 3 and 4: the potential to specifically address targets of recent work means that student can monitor their own progress, secure in the knowledge that the teacher will give them expert feedback, too.