#21 – How to develop a good CER rubric (hint: student participation needed!)

How do I mark CER (Claim Evidence Reasoning) statements? That’s probably a big question you have if you currently use or plan to use CER in your classroom. Other questions may include, ‘Is there a CER rubric?” and “If so, what are some good CER rubrics?” The short answer is that, yes, there is a way to mark CER and, yes, there are CER rubrics out there. However, there are some problems with current CER rubrics. For one thing, many CER rubrics are on scales out of 3, 4, or 5. Unfortunately, not everything fits perfectly into a number or category. No matter how well we define a 1, 2, or 3 on a rubric, not everything fits. There are grey areas. Furthermore, rubrics are classroom and teacher specific. We use rubrics to measure what we find important, and what each teacher finds important is different. Thus, rubrics cannot be generic – which are what most CER rubrics are.


So, what is a good CER rubric? It’s a rubric that provides feedback for students and is also customizable for each classroom. I outline how this can be done down below. I also give a pdf sample for a CER rubric that you can download at the end of this post.


The Basic CER rubric

How I create my CER rubrics for my classroom is based on the ideas from pro-d workshop by Peter Liljedahl, professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, that I attended. In short, rubrics need to measure what we value as teachers. And, rubrics do not need to have a number scale or multiple categories. Instead, a line representing a range of ability can be drawn between two ends of ability spectrum. On one end, we write a description of a poor outcome of the aspect we are evaluating. On the other end, we write a description of an excellent outcome of the same aspect. To use the rubric, teachers merely have to make a mark along the line indicating where the student’s ability currently is for the aspect being evaluated. That’s it. No need for multiple descriptions breaking down a 1, 2, or 3. This way of writing a CER rubric that is loose enough for teachers to account for the “grey areas”. At the same time, it also provides students with feedback because it shows where along the range they currently sit with regards to the ability being evaluated.


For example, let’s say I create a rubric to measure the “Evidence” aspect of CER. On the lowest end of the spectrum, I can write “Does not provide evidence, or only provides inappropriate or vague evidence.” On the highest end of the spectrum, I can write “Provides multiple sources of quantitative and qualitative measurements and observations from the investigation.” I finish off by drawing a line with an arrowhead at both ends (signifying a range). Ta-da! Rubric done!


An Even Better CER Rubric

The key to making this even more effective, according to Peter Liljedahl, is for students to both create and use the rubric themselves. For example, for a rubric that measures how a student presents evidence in CER, ask students what a very poor job at presenting evidence looks like. Chances are, they already know what it looks like. And, if they don’t, you can give them some guidance. The important thing is to write their suggestions down word-for-word and to use their exact wording to create a class CER rubric. In having students create this rubric, they get a basic understanding of what weak and strong work looks like as well as what the teacher is looking for in their work.


Then, the next time a student submits CER work, give them a copy of the class CER rubric. Have students mark where they believe their own work falls on the spectrum. If a student’s self evaluation is in line with what you see on the spectrum, then it’s a good thing because they are starting to understand where their own ability currently is and where they need to go. If a student’s self evaluation is way off from what you see on the spectrum, then this is also good because it opens up a discussion with the student and what they believe. It’s a win-win.


Wrap Up

Rubrics need to give feedback to the student. And, rubrics need to measure what teachers find important. A good CER rubric will do both. And, a good rubric is one that students create together by defining the ends of the spectrum as a class. It’s also a rubric students use themselves. Click on the link below to join our email list. We’ll email you a copy of our CER rubric example to help you get a start on your own. If you want to check out our CER resources, please visit posts #4#9#12, and #20.


For Our Sample CER Rubric, Click Here


Until next time, keep it REAL.

Posted on November 14, 2017 in Strategies

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