The Rule of Three: Simpler Evaluation

Teachers are uhhhh obsessive, especially about marking. We write and rewrite assessment instruments, when we could be hitting a bachata class, ripping up the Grand Wall after work, or kicking back with our five-year-old.

^ wanna be overloaded like her? ^ 😞😞

We spend too much time thinking about grading. Luckily for us, I’m gonna make the rest of your teaching career waaaaaay simpler by showing you how to make marking simple.

So…imagine if you got marked on partying. They give you a Number for how well you party.

Q: what would the rubric look like?

A: like this…

1 You are on your way to the party.
2 You are standing in the doorway, chatting with the host, eyeing a nice martini.
3 You are shaking it on the dancefloor with thirty others, with your second drink, and the sexiest person at the party is checking you out.

Works? Sure! It’s simple, quick and accurate. Your Party Mark will be 34%, 66% or 100%. Now, say we also wanted to grade outfits. So we add this:

1 Sweats and slides are kinda basic…but hey, you got out of bed!

2 Business casual? You look good and respectable but no eyeballs/mentions for you.

3 Oh yeah! What’s yr Insta, gorgeous? 😁

As we evaluate our partiers, they can get marks from 2/6, going upward in 15% intervals, to 6/6.

Various assessment gurus will tell you something fairly similar regarding attaching Numberz to Performancez: there are only three real levels of skill that one can accurately describe.  These are basically, not yet proficient, functionally proficient, and fully proficient. Breaking things down further is complicated, and therefore makes marking slower (and rubrics harder for students to understand). The more you refine descriptors and levels, the harder it is to distinguish between them.

So here is our Rule of Three for Evaluation:

1. We focus on three levels of skill (not yet, just got it, fully proficient). 2. There is a clear difference between each level.

Now, I’ma show y’all how this works for a language class. Here’s our oral interaction rubric (end of year, zero prep, totally 100% spontaneous & unplanned Q&A with a student, Level 2 and up in any language).

What matters? 1. student comprehension of interlocutor 2. accurate, comprehensible output 3. degree of engagement with interlocutor

3. I understand everything said. My errors have minimal impact on how understandeable I am. I ask and answer questions, and keep conversation going, appropriately.

2. I understand much of what is said with some obvious gaps. My errors occasionally make me impossible to understand. I try to keep conversation going but sometimes have problems adding to/elaborating on what has been said.

1. I don’t understand much of what is said. My errors often make me hard to understand. I have consistent problems keeping the convo going.

This rubric is s 3×3 and generates marks between 3 and 9 out of 9 (ie 33%-100% in 11% intervals). It’s a nice mix of detail, fast, and simple. You basically never want a rubric more complex than 3×3 cos it gets too texty for kids to read.

There you go. Use it if you want it.

Anyway, a few notes to go with this (and with marking writing, or anything else):

A. You can mark via selective sample. Eg, for writing, say your kids pump out 300-word stories (mid Level 1). I’ll bet you dinner and a movie that marking any three sentences will show you their proficiency as accurately as reading the entire thing. Same goes for answering questions about a reading, or listening. Pick a small sample and go.

B. You will generally see marks “clustering.” The kid who understands all the questions/comments in an oral interview will probably also be able to speak well. This is cos most “skills” develop in concert. With our partying rubric, it is likely that Mr Dressed To Kill is also quite sociable, a good and enthusiastic dancer, etc. Yes, there will be the odd kid who understands everything but can’t say much, but this is uncommon.

Now would somebody please make rubrics for spontaneous written output and reading comp also? Create & share.

Let’s be DONE with marking questions and focus on what matters: finding cool input for kids, and making our grading quick & simple, so that we can relax after work & show up energised. Remember, one of C.I.’s greatest innovators at one point said that their method was developed to boost their golf score. The logic? Well-rested, happy teacher = good teacher 😁😁.

 

 

3 comments

  1. Your rubric sounds pretty much like what BVP said he and Walter did at Michigan. I’ve copied them for my Google Voice calls. I like what Señora Chase did for a written evaluation of reading, so since I can’t find it right away, it went like this: 1 point: student picked six words in TL and translated them correctly. 2 points: student accurately explained the gist of the reading. 3 points: student picked six phrases with details and translated them correctly. I am pretty sure that for her it was C/B/A, but it works in points too. I’ve used this several times this semester, and for the most part it has been very clear to me what the students have earned. I did have to explain that they had to pick different vocabulary for parts one and three, not overlapping.

    I like to rate comprehension of listening separately, so I use the same system for listening (as suggests Señora Chase), except that students need only write the English, not the TL, in their lists.

    Marks for spontaneous written output would be almost the same as the others: 1 point: student attempted, but while seemingly on topic, little is comprehensible (to sympathetic reader at lower levels, to native speaker at higher levels); 2 points: completed the task, but is either producing in chunks not comprehensible or didn’t cover all the bases; 3 points: is producing output that can be understood and covers all the bases required. I will be using this scoring method on a couple of university classes this week, so it’s all laid out for them already.

    Great topic! One of these days I hope to meet you (or, if I have and think I just know your name, I’m going to put your name and face together).

      1. Bad memory person here. . .I am glad to say that I stuck to my guns and made even my university finals easy to grade this semester. It’s silly to make it hard, when there won’t be anything new gained by doing so. Hope my students don’t roast me in their reviews though.

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