Rubrics, Guidelines, or Checklists

It is amazing how much I can miss writing my blog.  I am finally going to be able to get back to doing my brain purges here on the Hyler 1 blog.  I apologize once again to my readers for taking so long to write.  Those of you who made requests for certain topics, I will be addressing them through out the next few weeks. Rest assured, I have been writing. I have been working on a chapter that was accepted for a practitioners book and I am working on some other writing for another book.  I am truly glad to be back to writing my blog.

With all that being said, I would like to give some thoughts on rubrics, guidelines, and checklists. Three or four weeks ago I was engaged in a conversation on Twitter with another NWP colleague about rubrics and guidelines.  After the conversation came to an end, I was left with a lot of confusion in my brain.

First, I am an avid user of rubrics, I have been using them for as long as I can remember. I am a firm believer they help my students understand what I want from them when it comes to a writing assignment or a project I am conducting in class.  My colleague stated that they do not like rubrics, they like using guidelines.  Their opinion of using a rubric was that they are too restrictive to the student and don’t allow the student to be expressive.  He liked the use of guidelines better because it didn’t restrict students in what they were doing. He feels the students have to do what is requested on the rubric, where a set of guidelines does just that, it guides the students to making the appropriate decisions necessary for an assignment or project.  Now, do rubrics and guidelines sound the same?  Perhaps they do.  As of right now, I am not sure of the difference.  A typical educational definition of a rubric would be:

an explicit set of criteria used to assess a certain type of work or performance.

For a guideline, it is defined as:

a recommended practice that allows some leeway in interpretation, or how it can be used.

Okay, so based on those two generic definitions, I can see my colleagues point.  However, I am not sure how one switches from using a rubric in class to using guidelines.  In addition, does it make a difference when the students are completing the assignment?

Then, you can’t forget checklists.  Where do those fall in to place.  We all know that checklists are merely there for students to “check” off the items on the list to makes sure they have everything.  For example, I give my students a checklist of items to look for when they do both peer editing and peer revising. But, are rubrics essentially a glorified checklist?  Hmmm. I can’t help but wonder what others are doing in terms of rubrics, guidelines, and checklists.  Furthermore, if anyone is a guideline implementor, how does one implement them into your classroom.