Education Opinion

Rubric, Rubric on the wall

By Katie Hanifin — September 08, 2009 1 min read
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Who’s the FOUR-est of them all?

I entered this virtual world project a little late in the development process so I was left to look at a finished prototype and figure out where to fit left over pieces, so to speak. This metaphorical machine was beautiful, shiny, crafted with the attention only a true master can afford - but you couldn’t really “ride” it. Imagine telling Paul Sr. that it’s not ready for paint the day before the American Chopper debut.

OK, so Jose Carlos doesn’t have a handle bar mustache or biceps the size of a human thigh, but I was the bearer of bad news - a magnificently-executed 3D learning platform from which you don’t actually learn.

And the blueprints that went into this project - scoring factors, completeness criteria, graphical elements, feedback ladders. They really thought of everything. Or had they?

It became obvious to me that something was missing. They knew exactly what they wanted the player to do and created a unique virtual space in which to do it. But an independent learner doesn’t have to do what you want them to. This is the primary challenge of this type of video game. The player is free to explore, encouraged to make choices in order to create a non-linear path for the avatar. How do you ensure learning?

So I created a rubric for each exercise they had built, as simple as a 4,3,2,1 to spell out all the possible outcomes both acceptable and unacceptable. I presented the concept, even showing how a passing grade is calculated from the academic grid. This rubric could then generate customized feedback, well-placed hints along the way, even new game variations.

The team was thrilled. It was fascinating to be back in the business world and realize that none of these people knew about something as basic to education as a rubric. They reveled in its simplicity, marveled at its flexibility. They celebrated the unusual word itself, allowing the first ‘r’ to roll theatrically from their mouths. With a collective sigh of relief, knowing that we were firmly on the right path, they nodded at me appreciatively.

So if anyone in Spain asks, I’m the inventor of the rubric.

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