Rubrics that are shared with students before they begin constructing their products are good because then the students understand what they need to do in order to get the grade they want, and when we lay out the criteria it prevents arbitrary subjective grading (e.g., this “looks like” a 75%). Rubrics also help facilitate the discussion with the students as to why they got the specific grade they received. It’s all about “accountable” education.
Going back to my Philosophy teaching days, “Making a Judgement (such as “judging” a student’s essay to be a 75%),” means you have decided something has met, failed to meet, or approximated a criteria. The criteria may be explicit, as in a rubric, or implicit, but it’s there. Making the criteria explicit is always favorable, which is why rubrics are important – for the reasons I outlined above.
And this model extends to content area taught to students. Consider the example of the ethical question of whether murder is objectively wrong if there is no God:
When we make “judgements,” such as the judgement that “murder is wrong,” we make those judgements by applying either explicit or implicit criteria.
For instance, when an elementary school teacher is making a judgement as to what grade a child gets on a narrative piece of writing that the child has submitted, the teacher applies a rubric judging such things as effective use by the child of such things as:
Ideas—the main message
Organization—the internal structure of the piece
Voice—the personal tone and flavor of the author’s message
Word Choice—the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning
Sentence Fluency—the rhythm and flow of the language
Conventions—the mechanical correctness
Presentation—how the writing actually looks on the page
Similarly, when a mixed martial arts judge tries to determine which fighter wins the match, they judge the fighters respective performances against such criteria as striking, grappling, and aggression.
The problem with moral judgements is that it is hard to get non-subjective criteria. In terms of murder, our culture in our time judges murder to be wrong, but other cultures in other times have approved of such things as cannibalism and feeding the Christians to the lions for sport. If we are not to just adapt an arbitrary “holier than thou” attitude from the point of view of our time, individual biases, and culture, the question is what right do we have to judge others that have a different worldview than we do?
If we are not to have moral relativism, we need to establish what the objective criteria is for judging that murder is wrong.