Detroit Lions’ franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had a troubling campaign in 2013. Despite promising rookie and sophomore seasons, Stafford struggled with footwork and passing mechanics, and at times, had trouble reading defenses and adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage.
In response, the Lions have hired veteran QB coach, Jim Bob Cooter, to mentor Stafford. Cooter, with his distinguished reputation as a coach and football troubleshooter, has spent the last several years in New Orleans working with Saints’ all-star QB Drew Brees.
In educational terms, quarterbacking is a rich performance task assessing a variety of competencies. The quarterback position is arguably the most challenging of all performance tasks in football and requires a staggering mix of physical, mental and social skills. This raises the question: what is the assessment mechanism used in high-stakes environments like professional football and what are the educational parallels?
We’ll never know what mechanism Jim Bob Cooter uses to assess Matt Stafford’s play. Some clubs use systemic grading schemes similar to rubrics. Others use intuitive systems that rely more on personal experience and intangibles. In education, however, rubrics are an ideal tool for assessing performance tasks, during which a student must demonstrate competency on a variety of skills.
Rubrics are less effective, however, for tasks that assess only knowledge and comprehension, or only a single skill. Traditional question-and-answer problem sets, for example, do not work well with rubrics. In some cases the questions are not sufficiently challenging enough to warrant a rubric. In other cases, the questions are so challenging that each question becomes a performance task and its own rubric.
In the rush to use rubrics on all assessments, organizations often apply them too liberally and for situations to which they are not suited. For example, problem sets are best assessed with traditional points systems. There is a way to use rubrics for problem sets, but I’ll discuss that in a future post.
For now, if you are having trouble making a rubric for an assignment, consider whether or not a rubric is appropriate at all. Would Jim Bob Cooter use a rubric to assess Matt Stafford’s response to one question? No. Would he use a rubric to assess Matt Stafford’s readiness for the next game? Maybe.