“I think I finally understand what you’ve been trying to tell us all along, Laura,” one of our AIW team teachers said recently. This high school Social Studies teacher was referring to the process of scoring instructional artifacts with the AIW rubrics, a process that is foundational to the AIW team’s work.
As a coach, one of most challenging parts of my job is assuring teachers that the AIW rubrics are not intended to be evaluative. That is, not in the ways in which teachers’ work has come to be evaluated as of late. While some states such as Wisconsin are actively pursuing more formative approaches to teacher evaluation, the following assumption still prevails: Scores = rating = worth = status. In addition, my experiences teaching writing to high school students introduced me to rubrics that constrained, rather than propelled, students’ ability to write effectively and powerfully for a given purpose.
In contrast, the AIW scoring process is intended to accomplish two primary goals. First, the scoring process helps teams develop common language and shared understandings around the goals for instruction within a school. Second, the AIW scoring process sparks a conversation within the team, a conversation that leads to specific, actionable ideas the presenting teacher can use to improve the assignment, assessment, lesson or instructional strategy in ways that benefit all students’ learning.
Consider a middle school team that is scoring a student performance artifact: a completed 7th grade social studies unit assessment. Students were asked to develop a travel brochure encouraging readers to visit a particular state in Australia, and the AIW team is deciding between a score of 2 or 3 for conceptual understanding. A science teacher, who assigned a score of 2, asks if the student might know more about his assigned state than is visible on the final brochure. A special education teacher asks about the task directions: Do they require students to demonstrate understanding or just restate facts? An English Language Arts teacher wonders about the teacher’s expectations for student writing and shares strategies she uses in her classes.
The conversation evolves as additional questions are posed and ideas are shared; team members often return to the scoring rubric to help them define what a high level of conceptual understanding would look like. As the team finishes, the presenting teacher describes changes she might make to the assessment itself, changes that would allow more students to demonstrate high levels of conceptual understanding. As this example demonstrates, interdisciplinary AIW teams offer an opportunity for rich dialogue across content areas about learning goals and instructional strategies.
In other words, the AIW scoring process is intended to be generative and instructive. As such, it provides a genuine opportunity for knowledgeable teachers to draw upon and enhance the wisdom that already exists within the team. This is a use of rubrics that I can stand behind.