Yesterday, as I told my comp class about style and audience and the need to write what one cares about for a reader who wants to understand, one student said the most important thing I’ve ever heard:
“I’ve never had an audience in my life. My audience is a rubric.”
— Matt Tierney (@figuralities) April 20, 2018
If students have only experienced a rubric as an audience to their writing, we have failed them miserably.
Ron Berger, known for his work with Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound school network, Harvard Project Zero, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, created a Hierarchy of Audience graphic to show how valuable authentic audiences are. He explains: “When we finish school and enter the world of work, we are asked to create work of value — scientific reports, business plans, websites, books, architectural blueprints, graphic artwork, investment proposals, medical devices and software applications. This work is created over weeks or months with team consultation, collaboration and critique, and it goes through multiple revisions.”
So how can we create opportunities for students to stretch beyond the rubric?
Our 6th graders are about to embark on a collaborative project with an international corporation to solve an actual problem the corporation is facing. They will be required to convey their proposals using business communications methods such as those Berger listed. Their audience will be the engineers, corporate executives, and marketing teams of the corporation.
Third graders, embarking on a classroom fundraising project, developed business plans and presented proposals based on a craft they wanted to sell at Open House. They had to identify their customer, develop a cost analysis, and a marketing plan.
My 16 year old daughter, wanting to share a message of female empowerment with others her age, started a blog… which ironically receives more viewers than me on many days!
Rubrics have their place as a formative assessment tool. But let’s not make it the destination. Our students have much more to contribute to the world than can be conveyed on a 4 point rubric!