The Revolutionary NoetiRubric™

Rubrics are tools for scoring work in academic settings, and elsewhere. They represent an effort to make subjective assessments more objective/uniform/consistent by using standard, or mutually agreeable, sets of criteria related to particular aims/endeavors and outcomes. Ostensibly, rubrics are used to numerically grade performance evaluations and engender clear communication with respect to setting and pursuing objectives and measuring the degree of achievement at pre-established points and/or upon completion. 

Whether rubrics have value in terms of accuracy and effectiveness depends, we say, on how well they are crafted. To be meaningful, rubrics must reflect an understanding of purposeful objectives. To be complete, they must include all elements/dimensions that are to be measured. To be accurate and fair, they must express each element/dimension of that objective in terms of specific and unbiased performance characteristics. Finally, they must articulate a performance scale for rating performance, and encourage excellence with respect to each element and its characteristics. But, do they? 

Because rubrics are so popular among those who desire quick, convenient, numerically describable, easily aggregated results, and because rubrics are so powerful in the effect of automatic acceptance of such results and application to decision-making, we looked at some rubrics commonly used in schools today. What we found was an abundance of thinly disguised subjective assessments that actually thwart the purpose of education: i.e., diversity-supportive transfer of knowledge and liberation of students’ innate qualities. 

We examined, for example, a simple rubric used to score first-grade art students’ performance in charting the basic color spectrum—the colors of the rainbow. To begin, the rubric was not accompanied by any statement of its core purpose: to test the ability to identify each color and place the set in proper order by making a simple chart and filling it in with paint. To our surprise, we found that students having the same correct grasp of the matter could receive a grade ranging from a highly praiseworthy 100% down to a failing score of 44%! The grade meted out to each student having the same knowledge-level depends not on knowledge but on neatness, a subjective assessment made to seem objective and, more important: giving the impression that the grades indicate individual and aggregate first-grader intelligence regarding the color spectrum. 

How important is that simple rubric? Here’s how important: Somewhere a child is being considered below average intelligence for his age, and parents, teachers, and school administrators are considering whether the school nurse should do an eye test, whether a psychiatrist and medication would be wise, or parent-financed tutoring, or assignment to a Special Education class. Somewhere a school’s administrators are arguing for more funds, more tax dollars, to purchase learning aids and hire assistant teachers to help raise grades and meet government-mandated standards—all, of course, to serve the child’s needs. Worse, twenty years later the parents will be remembering how poor Johnny, who received an unchallenged 44%, was never much of an artist. 

In response to our findings, we have developed the fog-free NoetiRubric™, which includes a full and standard set of meta-elements, guidelines on articulating the related characteristics specific to each element, and a pass-fail approach to rating performance. In an academic setting, you either have the knowledge or you don’t. In a business setting you either achieve carefully described expectations, or not. Raise the bar. Lower the cost. Cut to the chase.

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