Teachers are giving students rubrics to help improve the quality of their work, but do they? Does student work, say, writing a paper, improve when students are given the criteria that will be used to assess their work? Kathleen Greenberg notes in her article that there is “very little empirical research on the value of rubrics in enhancing student learning.” (p. 211) And what research there is offers a mixed bag of results.
“Even measures with perfect validity can be rendered useless if they are interpreted incorrectly, and anecdotal evidence suggests that teaching evaluations are frequently the subject of unwarranted interpretations based on assumed levels of precision that they do not possess.” (p. 641) And now there’s some research verifying that faculty and administrators do make unwarranted interpretations. “We investigated if differences in teaching evaluations that are small enough to be within the standard error of measurement would still have significant effects on judgments made about teachers.” (p. 641)
Let’s begin with what learning logs are not: diaries. They are a type of assignment by the Writing Across the Curriculum movement, and are designed to be one of the strategies that can be used to get students writing more—and writing in courses where they typically don’t write. A flexible assignment, learning logs can be shaped to accomplish a variety of goals.
Testing has a prominent role in most college courses. It’s the method most often used to determine the extent to which students have mastered the material in the course. Say “tests” and thoughts jump immediately to evaluation and grades, with students thinking “stressful” simultaneously or shortly thereafter.
How can we engage students who are enrolled in large courses so they become active learners? I used four activities designed to get students involved, support their efforts to learn, and personalize the material in an introductory psychology course. How well did they work? For analysis, I divided the 52 students in my course into four groups, or quadrants, using their final overall course scores to place them in high- to low-performance groups.
Although group testing is still not widely used, it is an approach more faculty are exploring. Creative approaches to design and unique features can prevent many of the problems associated with it. However, faculty are still very concerned with what happens when students discuss answers collaboratively. Fortunately, some of those issues are now being looked at empirically.
The life of a faculty member is filled with noisy busyness—planning class sessions, grading, meeting with students, advising, committee work, research, scholarship, and publications. We are consumed by the swirl of activities and the need to juggle all these responsibilities without dropping one of the balls!