Exemplars and How to Calibrate a Rubric

Most of my sharing so far has been surrounding my Foundations of Art class, but I do also teach AP Studio Art: 2D Design and Drawing. I have a slightly different philosophy about AP than most other people and I approach it as truly a college class – not elitist or exclusionary rather if you want in and want to do well, you are going to practice and work hard. I’m not going to get into that stuff in this post and if you’re interested in hearing about it, I’ll be presenting at the Massachusetts Art Ed Conference November 10-11 at UMASS Amherst. If you’re not close and can’t make it, I’ll do a post after the conference about that.


The Rubric

My students don’t always have a ton of art experience and even the ones who do still benefit from looking at exemplary portfolios. I struggled at first figuring out how to have students understand the “why” behind portfolios getting 5’s and 6’s – and why their work wasn’t there just yet. But I thought about my own AP training and understanding of the “why’s” behind the scoring and my own understanding of the Rubric itself and figured I could scaffold a similar activity for students.

Students start by looking at the rubric – I organized it so it fit on one page (although the font is SO SMALL) and students look through in pairs or teams. As they look through the rubric they are to write down words they don’t know. Then the words get organized and we talk about how we will return to the words later on.

Exemplary Portfolios

Students then get envelopes filled with portfolios I’ve printed off the College Board site, rubric indicators on large cardstock and the portfolio score in another envelope.

Students lay out the work and begin to look at each indicator and the work as a whole. Students can write on their initial rubric, circling areas they think the work falls within the rubric – they discuss it and give the portfolio a score themselves. I come around and ask them what score and WHY? I’m looking for evidence from the rubric. Students struggle with the “liking” or “disliking” the actual work and the rubric itself. We do a lot of reminding that we don’t have to like the content or the actual work but we have to score it based on what we see.

Calibrating the Rubric to Our Work

I do this activity on a Monday and have students work all week on their own breadth pieces (I also this similar activity with Concentration in January). Friday is our Feedback day and instead of holding a “normal” feedback day where students put up work and share their strengths, weaknesses and look for feedback from peers and me – the following Friday will be looking at the body of our own work using the rubric to score what we have created. Students can get feedback on their individual pieces and upload anything they have missed to Seesaw – but they are basically looking at their own work, the rubric and remembering the exemplars we looked at on Monday.

For my students, this process is helpful although sometimes it can be disheartening for some of them who still have loads of room to grow. We talk about how work can redone and rescored throughout the course and with practice many of our pieces will improve tenfold.

How do you calibrate rubrics with students? How do you show exemplary work? Do you show students how to look at work and rubrics? 

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