Class Discussion Rubric

Instructor: Esther Bouchillon

Esther has taught middle school and has a master's degree in gifted education.

This lesson provides an overview of rubrics and what to consider when making a class discussion rubric. It also includes tips for using rubrics during class discussions. A short quiz follows the lesson.

Why Should You Use a Rubric?

Mrs. Foster's class spent the past several days debating ethics in genetics studies. While the discussion was a great way for Mrs. Foster to ensure that students fully understood the vocabulary they had learned in the unit and the students seemed engaged and interested in the discussion, Mrs. Foster was worried. Her school had requirements for the number of grades she must record each week. Mrs. Foster was also concerned that while the majority of students were participating, not all were, and she had difficulty keeping track of which students were not engaged.

Mrs. Foster's concerns can be solved through using a class discussion rubric! This tool allows Mrs. Foster to give a grade for the class discussion and know which students did not participate.

What is a Rubric?

A rubric is usually written as a table or chart with boxes explaining how points are earned. Each box states exactly what must be done to earn that number of points in the category. See the example below.

This is a table style rubric.
Class Discussion Rubric in Table Format

Sometimes checklists are referred to as rubrics, such as the one below.

This is a rubric in check list format.
Class Discussion Rubric Check List

A benefit to this style is that these rubrics can be made quickly and are easy to customize so that one area can be weighted more heavily than another; all you have to do is type up what you want the students to do and assign point values. However, checklists are not as precise as the table format and students can sometimes be confused as to why they only received partial credit in an area. A comments section is essential when using this type to ensure that everyone understands why full credit was not achieved.

Rubric Criteria

The beauty of a rubric is that it can be customized to your students' level and designed to include whatever is most important to you. Common areas that are graded in a class discussion are preparation, listening, and speaking. Other areas you may include are depth of knowledge, use of resources (referring back to previously read documents), and following class discussion procedures.

There are two different approaches to making the criteria section of the rubric. The criteria states what is needed to earn three points, two points, or one point in an area. One school of thought is to make the criteria very general, like saying 'the student refers to the documents frequently in their comments' for three points, 'the student refers to the documents occasionally' for two points, and 'the student rarely refers to the documents' for one point. Both the advantage and disadvantage of using descriptions like this is they are very subjective to the teacher's discretion. This rubric is great to use if your class has students at several different ability levels, such as an inclusion class, which combines students with special needs and general education students in the same room. It allows you to use the same rubric for all of the students while taking their individual ability level into account. However, this can be a disadvantage as both students and parents may question why a certain grade is received. It also does not tell students exactly what is required of them to earn a good grade.

A second way of writing criteria for a rubric is to be extremely specific in the statements so that students could essentially grade themselves during the discussion. This way there is no question as to why students earned a certain grade. An example of this would be saying 'The student refers back to the document 4-5 times' to earn three points, 'the student refers back to the document 3-2 times' for two points, and 'the student refers back to the document 1 time' to earn one point. An advantage of this is that everything is extremely clear and students will know exactly what is required of them. A disadvantage is that the student's ability is not taken into consideration when grading unless the rubric is modified for specific students with special needs. This type of rubric also makes it easier for students to only do what is required of them and then stop participating. When using either type of rubric, it is important that you discuss your expectations with the student before beginning the discussion.

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