Monday, January 13, 2014 - By: Dave McCarthy

In keeping with the school-wide theme of assessment this year, our term opened with a ProD session for teachers on the use of rubrics in assessment. Department Heads gave mini presentations to faculty on how these were being used in their subject areas in order to expand student understanding of criteria, process, and achievement indicators on marking schemes.

In English for example, Mr. Collis showed us that the 6 point essay rubric is a fast and efficient way to grade papers, but more importantly it is a tool whereby students can learn to understand what a really good essay looks like and write accordingly. Thus it is used in a formative way in classes where students practice grading exemplar papers and also do self-assessment using the rubrics.

Mr. Robinson, our Social Studies Chair, gave examples in problem-based learning and showed how rubrics can embed a range of thinking skills that can prompt students to reach for a higher cognitive standard. Using words like “analyse”, “evaluate” and “create” in a rubric allows students to be metacognitive and consciously move their thinking skills to a higher level.

In mathematics, Mr. Wardrop created an end-of-term assessment that involved an understanding of exponential growth and decay but also incorporated some digital and writing skills. Students were asked to produce a newspaper article according to a set of criteria given in advance so that they could demonstrate their knowledge of math in a realistic way, calculating and graphing bacterial growth in a disease outbreak and radioactive decay after the Fukushima accident. I had a sense that we were looking at an “exam of the future”, one where students used their computers and information available on the web, together with their math skills, to show their ability to think and construct ideas under pressure. Similarly, in robotics class, a rubric was used for the final assessment of the term, a problem-solving exercise to create and program a robot to “rescue a penguin” from a “snow cave”. Students had to collaborate and brainstorm before selecting their solution. Each stage was marked on a defined scale which essentially then served as a guide through the problem-solving process.


In languages, Sr Hernandez elaborated on the Webquest project that is used to assess students on a variety of language skills in an authentic context such as assuming the role of a travel agent who has to promote holidays to a certain country or region. Though this can also be done as a group project, students are responsible for well-defined portions including the presentation.

Lastly, we had a presentation from Mr. David Hladik who is our technology skills facilitator. He focused in on how to guide students on video projects and use an assessment tool to evaluate the results. We look forward to some examples of work in the science and business departments in the near future. For more on the recent Grade 9 Animation project, please see

For deconstructing complex skills and assessing with transparency, these rubrics are a useful tool. Perhaps their greatest benefit, however, is in enabling students to be set up for success, to know what excellence looks like and how to achieve the top mark in each category being evaluated. These assessment tools will not completely replace traditional tests and quizzes, but increasingly be a part of an overall, balanced assessment strategy.

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