One strategy to help students understand the learning goals for a task is to provide a simple rubric. The rubric should break down any jargon found within the success criteria so that students can understand the learning goal (and establish a link between their own work and their likely grade). I distinguish between what I call simple rubrics (which are simple and break down jargon) and what I call ‘criteria sheets’ (which I define as the descriptive marking scheme created by teachers in order to specifically assess particular skills and knowledge). Criteria sheets are created for a specific assessment task with national or state curriculum requirements in mind and as a result they can be quite hefty and hard for students to understand (particularly younger students). A simple rubric is based on the criteria sheet and breaks down the jargon so that students understand the success criteria. It is essential to do this, otherwise the student is in the dark about what they need to do to succeed (EG: Jackson, 2009).
The simple rubric (see image) was introduced to year 9 history students as part of a paragraph writing task. After explaining the paragraph task, I led a brainstorm session about what an ‘A’ standard paragraph would look like and then gave the students a copy of the rubric, which we discussed before students embarked on the task to ensure that students understood the learning goals (in this case, being able to convey accurate knowledge, provide supporting evidence and communicate clearly). The rubric was used again during classroom tasks and discussed prior to the final assessment item. This gave students a good understanding of what was required for such a writing task and demystified the criteria sheet for them.
References: Jackson, R. 2009. Never work harder than your students & other principles of great teaching. Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development: USA. Rubric by P Waring © St Rita’s College