Applied College courses? Or ‘rubrics’?

Today: pondering if ‘academic theory’ folks at Ontario colleges might consider adjusting the ‘pedagogical frameworks’ (???) for applied courses. Ontario Colleges got their start as centres of applied learning; I’d love to say we still ‘own’ that role, but threats exist. One threat is so ‘It-cool’ that I’ll take grief for daring to question its omnipotence. Some folks in admin roles (often in roles requiring little to no actual teaching, at least not applied courses), are in love with ‘rubrics‘.

What’s a rubric? It’s a grid to let students see how the overall grade is weighted by parts of an assignment- either split by some academically appealing virtue (Originality, Appearance, Spelling, etc) or by section of an Assignment (eg Cover Page is worth 5%; Introduction is worth 10%, etc). A rubric might actually be useful in junior courses, as students try their hand at very basic assignments. However, as instructors use work-world learning to advance a student to application-based, work-like assignments (eg in senior courses) a rubric should often be left behind.

The more advanced the course, and the closer the student is to graduation, the more ridiculous rubrics are. Administrators who defend them vigorously may be unaware rubrics don’t apply in the work world; eg in business, anything can be 100% of ‘grade’!

  • Do an OK job, but misspell the company name or brand?- hammered!
  • Swear during the Q&A session? -hammered!
  • Skip an entire section, but wow a Client with superb Story Flow, impactful analogies & a resourceful Q&A? -nailed it!

Parsing ‘content bits’ up by section lets students pick & choose and act like…. students.

eg if ‘Cover Page: accounts for 5%’ —??? They get a 5% of the credit, if they do nothing but a cover page. A cover page if nothing at all follows it?  Ridiculous!

So… thanks to a (real world background) colleague who gave me an ‘out’; an ‘overall professional output‘ rubric if forced to use one where it makes no sense (btw I typically also attach a list of ‘price of entry ‘conditions’; imo it’s not too much to ask students, or coworkers, to spell the brand correctly & not swear in the middle of a presentation).

Exceptional: (consistent with or better than best practices in Canadian business) eg 4.5 to 5 out of 5

Good: (on par with good Canadian business practice) eg 3.5 to 4.4 / 5

Satisfactory: (minor flaws detract from good Canadian business practice) eg 2.5 to 3.4 / 5

Below Expectations (major flaws detected or content not provided) eg 0.0 to 2.4 / 5

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